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Translated from the German by 

Introduction by Eugene Davidson 




foreword xxiii 



1 Origins and Youth 

Youth— Life at home— Schooling— Inflation— Assistant to Tessenow— 

2, Profession and Vocation iq 

Offer from Afghanistan— Architect without commissions— Boating 
tours— The election of September 14, 1930— National Socialism and 
the Technical Institute— First Hitler rally— Goebbels in the Sport- 
palast— Joining the party 

3 Junction 21 

First party assignment in Berlin— Back in Mannheim— Hitler's Ber- 
lin demonstration— Renovating the party headquarters and the 
Propaganda Ministry— D6cor for the Party Rally, May 1933— My 
client Hider— At home with Hider 


Contents ( vi 
4 My Catalyst 3* 

Hitler's guest-My client Goering-Traveling with Hitler-Hitler's 
thought-Hitler's views on art-The Old Fighters-At Obersalzberg 
Mountain walks with Eva Braun— Cheers and obsessions— Hitler the 

5 Architectural Megalomania So 

The Roehm putsch— Papen expelled from his office— Hindenburg's 
funeral— First major assignment— Theory of ruin value— Cathedral 
of light— Cornerstone layings— Plans for Nuremberg— Architecture 
of a Great Power 

6 The Greatest Assignment ji 

Plans for Berlin— Rivaling Vienna and Paris— Hitler and his archi- 
tects—The German pavilion at the Paris World's Fair— Neoclassi- 
cism in our times— Abortive travels in France— Neurath's obstinacy 

7 Obersalzberg 8g 

Bormann and Hitler— The day at Obersalzberg— Teatime talk- 
Hitler's rage— Retirement in Linz— Hitler's prediction 

8 The New Chancellery 102 

The assignment— Hitler's illness— Morell— Events of 1938: Cabinet 
changes, Austria, Munich, November 9— A bad omen— Hacha in the 
new Chancellery 

9 A Day in the Chancellery 117 

Waiting— Hess the eccentric— The leadership's "style"— The radicals, 
Bormann and Goebbels— Jokes for Hitler— Dull evenings— Hitler and 

10 Our Empire Style 132 

"You've all gone completely crazy"— Laying out the grand avenue 
—Megalomania— Deadlines— Costs— Boom in architecture— Hitler's 
sketches— Affairs in the Goebbels family— Incognito to Italy— Hitler's 
fiftieth birthday— With the Wagner family in Bayreuth— Frau 

vii ) Contents 

11 The Globe 151 

Hitler's power center-The biggest building in the world-A Reich- 
stag for one hundred forty million people— Hitler's palace— Fear of 
uprisings— Empire style— The globe 

12 The Descent Begins 160 

The Pact— Northern lights over Obersalzberg— "Blood"— War and 
peace parties— Hitler goes to war— At headquarters— Armistice— 
With Hitler in Paris— Wartime building program 

13 Excess 174 

Victory parades under the triumphal arch— Hess's flight to England 
—Hitler and Goering as art collectors— War against the Soviet Union 
—The pencil line along the Urals— Captured weapons for the grand 
avenue— Trondheim and the East— My last art tour— Disaster in 
Russia— The second man 



14 Start in My New Office 289 

Flight to Dnepropetrovsk— Visit to headquarters— Talks with Hitler 
and Todt— Death of Todt— Audience with Hitler— Appointment as 
Minister— Goering's scene— First official acts— Obstacles overcome— 
The Cabinet Room 

15 Organized Improvisation 204 

The new organizational scheme— Goering's threat to resign— Archi- 
tect and technology— Industrial self-responsibility— Organization of 
the Ministry— Successes 

16 Sins of Omission 214 

The technological war— Efforts at full mobilization— Party opposi- 
tion—More steel for the war— Transportation crisis— The muffed 
atom bomb 

Contents ( viii 

17 Commander in Chief Hitler 230 

Armaments conferences with Hitler— My system— Hitler's knowledge 
of technology— Demonstrating weapons— Visits in southern Russia- 
Ascent of Mount Elbrus— Hitler's situation conferences— The Allied 
landing in North Africa— Goering and Stalingrad 

18 Intrigues 252 

Bormann— Cabinet meetings again— Need for austerity— Discussions 
with Goebbels— Alliances— Bormann's system— Dealing with Goeb- 
bels, dealing with Goering— Fiasco— Himmler's threat 

19 Second Man in the State 267 

Goebbels joins Bormann— Hitler reprimands Goebbels— No prisoners 
—Bridge to Asia— Guderian and Zeitzler agree— Minister of War 

20 Bombs 278 

The new front— Goering's deceptions— The Ruhr dams— Pinpoint 
bombing strategy— The raids on Hamburg— Ball bearings— The 
enemy's strategic mistake— The bombing of Berlin— Hitler's mistakes 
Galland against Goering— The flight from reality 

21 Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 292 

The change in Hitler— His rigidity and exhaustion— Daily routine- 
Hitler and his dog— The Prince of Hesse— Mussolini freed and 

22 Downhill 309 

Armaments work in occupied territories— Agreement with the 
French— Sauckel's reaction— Speech to the Gauleiters— Hitler lies to 
his generals— Trip to Lapland— Infantry program— Trouble with 
Sauckel— Goering's birthday 



23 Illness 327 

Dangerous plots— Convalescence— The Fighter Aircraft Staff- 
Hitler's emotion and new estrangement— Candidates for my office 
—Thoughts of resignation— Back at the Berghof— Hitler yields- 
Praise in The Observer 

ix ) Contents 

24 The War Thrice Lost 346 

Return to work— Strategic bombing of fuel production— Memoranda 
—Rommel and coastal defense— The invasion of Normandy begins— 
Takeover of aircraft production-Hitler's speech to the industrialists 

25 Blunders, Secret Weapons, and the SS 362 

Jet fighters as bombers— Peenemiinde— Concentration camp prisoners 
in war industry— Himmler invades rocket research— Plans for SS 
economic expansion— Stealing workers— Auschwitz 

26 Operation Valkyrie 37 7 

Talks with the conspirators— The news reaches Goebbels— In the 
center of the counterstroke— Bendlerstrasse— Meeting with Fromm— 
Himmler calls on Goebbels— Kaltenbrunner's visit— On the conspira- 
tors' lists— Aftermath— Arrests— Films of the executions 

27 The Wave from the West 396 

Goebbels gains power— Hitler loses authority— Visits to the front- 
September 1944: military impotence— Hitler's plans for destruction 
—Outwitting his arguments— Shortage of chromium— Declining pro- 
duction—Secret weapons and propaganda 

28 The Plunge 412 

Breakup of organization— Emergency program— The Ardennes offen- 
sive—Upper Silesia— "The war is lost"— Memorandum— Reaction to 
Yalta— Poison Gas for Hitler's bunker 

29 Doom 433 

Anxiety over the postwar period— Countermeasures— Another memo- 
randum—Hitler's reply— Hitler's death sentence upon industry 

30 Hitler's Ultimatum 444 

The Ruhr threatened— Feverish travels— Sabotage of orders— Hitler's 
twenty-four-hour ultimatum— An unread letter— Hitler yields again 

31 The Thirteenth Hour 461 

Radio speech— Finale of Gotterdammerung— Roosevelt's death— Ley 
invents death rays— Eva Braun— Preparations for flight— Plans for 
suicide— Hitler's last delusions— The "rebel speech"— Collaboration 
with Heinrici— Berlin will not be defended 

Contents ( x 

22 Annihilation 471 

Hitler's condition— Fear and pity— Last birthday— Goering goes to 
Berchtesgaden— My flight— In the Hamburg radio bunker— Last visit 
to Hitler— Situation conference— Farewell to Magda Goebbels and 
Eva Braun— Last words with Hitler— Himmler and his notions— 
Doenitz— Tears— Responsibility 


33 Stations of Imprisonment 4qq 

Flensburg— Mondorf— Versailles— Kransberg— Nuremberg 

34 Nuremberg 507 
Interrogations— Collective responsibility— Cross-examination 

35 Conclusions 51Q 
The judgment— The sentence— My own fate— Skepticism 


NOTES 527 




The unresolved questions of the period of national socialism remain 
with us. The enormity of the crimes committed, the huge scale of 
victory and defeat are subjects of continuous exploration and analysis. 
How could one of the chief centers of the civilized world have become a 
torture chamber for millions of people, a country ruled by criminals so 
effectively that it conquered most of Europe, moving out toward other 
continents, planting its swastika standards from Norway to the Caucasus 
and Africa before it was brought down at the cost of some thirty million 
lives? What had happened to the nation of thinkers and poets, the "good" 
Germans that the nineteenth century knew? And how did intelligent, 
well-intentioned, educated, principled people like Albert Speer become 
so caught up in the movement, so captivated by Hitler's magnetism that 
they could accept everything— the secret police, the concentration camps, 
the nonsensical rhetoric of Aryan heroism and anti-Semitism, the slaughter 
of the Fuehrers wars— and devote all their resources to keeping this re- 
gime in power? In these memoirs of the man who was very likely the 
most gifted member of the government hierarchy we have some of the 
answers to these riddles and as complete a view as we are ever likely to 
get of the inside of the Nazi state. 

When he joined the Party in 1931, Speer had never given much 
thought to politics. He came from an upper-middle-class family, one of 
the most prominent in Mannheim, supported in high style by the father's 

( xi ) 

Introduction ( xii 

flourishing architectural practice and involved mainly in the cultural and 
social life of the city. Speer's father did read the liberal Frankfurter Zei- 
tung, an unusual paper for a conservative architect to have in his home, 
but he utterly rejected the Nazis because he believed them to be more 
socialist than nationalist. The family suffered financial reverses during 
the inflation in 1923 but always lived well in a burgerlicher comfort en- 
joyed by very few people in post- World War I Germany. 

Albert Speer was not one of the disoriented, rejected millions who 
were out of a job and a place in society; he joined the National Socialist 
Party because his faint interest in politics was roused more than it had 
ever been before when he heard Hitler give a speech in 1931. Most young 
men brought up like Speer did not care much for Hitler and his street 
fighters in 1931; Hitler's strength went up and down with the numbers of 
unemployed. Left-wing Berlin, where Speer heard Hitler speak, gave Hit- 
ler only 22.5 percent of the vote in the last free election held in November 
1932, and even after the Reichstag fire, when almost 44.0 percent of the 
rest of Germany voted for Hitler, the National Socialists got only 31.3 per- 
cent of the Berlin vote. So Speer made his own decisions in his own way. 
Like a good many other people he was looking for a new, powerful doc- 
trine to clear up his own thinking. He had dabbled in philosophical ideas; 
had read Spengler and become depressed by him; had heard the proph- 
ecies of doom from the post- World War I intellectuals and seen them 
borne out in the confusion and hopelessness of the cities; and now he was 
rejecting much of what he had been brought up to believe in because 
none of it seemed to have any relevance to the chaos around him. 

The speech Speer heard was made for university and technical stu- 
dents and faculties. Like every skillful politician, Hitler pitched his style 
to his audience. He wore a sober blue suit instead of his street fighters 
brown shirt and spoke earnestly, in a relatively low key, of a revitalized 
Germany. To Speer, his conviction seemed to be an antidote to Spengler's 
pessimism and at the same time fulfillment of his prophecy of the Zra- 
perator to come. These were the good tidings, it seemed, the complete 
answer to the threat of Communism and the political futility of the Wei- 
mar governments. In a time when nothing in the democratic process 
seemed to work, Hitler's words sounded a loud call to many young men 
who by 1931 were convinced of the necessity for bold, new remedies for 
Germany's deep troubles. The succession of patched-up coalition govern- 
ments that governed neither long nor well and could find no answers at 
all to Germany's economic depression, social unrest, and military power- 
lessness had to be replaced by a man and a party with new solutions, by 
a leader who knew the meaning of strength and law and order. The anti- 
Semitism of the Nazis could be condoned or ignored as merely a passing 
"children's disease" if one liked the rest of their program. As Machiavelli 

xiii ) Introduction 

once wrote, political misjudgments and wrong turns are like tuberculosis, 
hard to detect and easy to cure in the beginning and easy to diagnose and 
very hard to cure at the end. 

But it was not the Party as a political instrument that appealed to 
Speer. What drew him was the personality of the Fuehrer, the scale of 
the blueprints for recovery, and later the wonderful opportunity to design 
buildings. It was through Hitler and the Party that Speer could realize 
his youthful architectural ambitions and acquire new ones beyond any- 
thing he had imagined. He tried not to see any of the barbarities com- 
mitted by the National Socialist Party or the state although, as he tells us, 
the broken panes of the Jewish shops vandalized during the Kristallnacht 
lay shattered in front of him. But what he was able to accomplish in his 
profession and later in his key government posts so dazzled his vision that 
he could shut his eyes to almost everything, no matter how repulsive, 
that might disturb his purposes. What he wanted to do was to design 
and build and to work for a new order. Here the means were abundantly 
at hand if he did not look too closely at the price being paid for them. 

Speer has had a long time to ask himself questions about his role in 
the Third Reich. At Nuremberg he was sentenced to twenty years for 
crimes against humanity and for war crimes; he served this sentence to the 
last hour. Some of these years he used to write these memoirs. They were 
intended for his children, but perhaps even more for himself. They had to 
be written clandestinely, often on scraps of paper or sheets torn from 
rolls used by the prison painters, and hidden behind a book Speer pre- 
tended to be reading as he lay on his cot. They were smuggled out of 
Spandau by one of the prison staff, a Dutchman who had himself been 
a slave laborer. 

Speer, as the reader will discover, is not given to facile self-exculpa- 
tion. When in defeat he finally came face to face with himself, with the 
bitter knowledge of what manner of man and what kind of state he had 
helped survive, he was as unrelenting toward himself as toward his collab- 
orators. He told the court at Nuremberg, knowing that he risked his life 
when he said it, that as a member of Hitler's government he took full re- 
sponsibility for the crimes committed, for the slave labor in the factories 
under his authority, for his collaboration with the SS when it provided con- 
centration camp prisoners for his production lines, and his conspicuous 
role in a regime that killed— although with no direct help from him— six 
million Jews. He had been accused on all four counts of the Nuremberg 
indictment: of having plotted to wage aggressive war, of participating in 
it, and of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. He fully 
accepted what lay behind the charges— the accusation that was mainly an 
echo of his own conscience— that he had served all too well as Minister of 
Armaments and War Production in a criminal state. 

Introduction ( xiv 

The court found him not guilty on the first two counts. With regard 
to the other charges, a majority (the Russians voted for death) took note 
of extenuating circumstances, on the evidence that Speer had tried to pro- 
vide his workers with adequate food and housing, to make their lot as 
endurable and their work as efficient as possible. The court also noted 
that he had openly opposed Hitler (and indeed had planned to kill him 
when he saw that the Fuehrer was ready to destroy Germany only to 
gain a little more time for himself); and, too, Speer had had the uncom- 
mon courage to protest Hitlers mistaken identification of his own fate 
with that of the country to a Fuehrer who had many a man executed for 
uttering merely defeatist sentiments. 

The court, especially the Russians on it, knew from experience as well 
as from the evidence before them how much Speer had accomplished for 
the Reich. He had kept Germany armed against a world of enemies both 
inside and outside its boundaries. Far more than Goering, he had become 
the second man in the Reich; one English newspaper had even written, 
toward the end of the war, that he was more important to the German 
war effort than Hitler himself. There is truth in this statement. By the 
time of Stalingrad, Hitler s mystique was fading and his decisions becom- 
ing more and more bizarre; it was Speer who kept the war machine run- 
ning in high gear and increasingly productive until 1945. Only when the 
cities lay in ruins and at Hitler's orders the last factories were to be blown 
up did Speer come to suspect what many of his compatriots like Goer- 
deler, Witzleben, and Rudolf Pechel had long known: that a Hitlerian 
victory would have worse consequences for Germany than any defeat. 

In prison Speer set himself the task of finding out why it had taken 
him so long to see the error in the way he had chosen. He put himself 
through a long and careful self -analysis, a process that prison was ideally 
suited to further. He could read almost any nonpolitical books he chose; 
so he turned to psychology, philosophy, and metaphysics, the kind of 
books, he says, he never in the world would have read or thought he had 
had the time to read when he was in civil life. And he could look in- 
ward, ask himself questions as he went over the days of his life, questions 
that a man sometimes asks during or after major crises but that seldom can 
be thoroughly investigated amid the intense preoccupations of making a 
career in the contemporary world. Speer was unhampered by the de- 
mands of such a life; he had gnawing problems, to be sure— the well-being 
of his family and the appalling state of the country he had helped to keep 
at war and thus had helped destroy— but his main preoccupation was to 
try to explain himself to himself. He could do this best by writing it all 
down. In what he said he had nothing to lose. He was condemned and 
sentenced; he had acknowledged his guilt; now it was his job to under- 
stand what he had done and why. So the reader of these memoirs is for- 
tunate: he will be told, as far as the author is capable of telling him, pre- 

xv ) Introduction 

cisely why Speer acted as he did. Thus this chronicle of National Socialist 
Germany seen from within also becomes a self -revealing account of one of 
the most able men who served it. 

Inwardness is especially unusual in a technician. A man like Speer, 
working with blueprints, ordering vast projects, is likely to exhaust him- 
self in manipulation, in transforming the outer world, in carrying out pro- 
duction goals with all the means at hand. His was not introspective work, 
but in Spandau Speer had to turn not to others to carry out his planning, 
but only, day after day and night after night, to himself. It was a rare op- 
portunity and he took full advantage of it. He could do it the more readily 
because he was convinced the court had acted justly in his case; he 
had much the same interest as the prosecution in finding out what had 

This objectivity has stayed with him. One of the suggestions made to 
him in connection with the publication of this book in England was that 
he meet the former chief British prosecutor, Lord Shawcross (at the time 
of the trial, Sir Hartley Shawcross), on the BBC to discuss the Nuremberg 
case. Speer said he would be pleased to meet with the British or Amer- 
ican or any other prosecutor; he bears no rancor against the people who 
helped put him in prison for twenty years, and he has no objection to 
meeting anyone who has a serious interest in the history in which he 
played such a conspicuous role. 

When he returned to Heidelberg after his twenty-one-year absence 
he did the simple, ordinary things a man might do who must start all over 
again. He went back to the summer house above the Neckar where he had 
lived as a child; and because when he was a boy he had had a St. Bernard 
dog, he got himself another one, to help him return to the beginnings 
again, to bridge the long exile. He planned to resume his architectural 
practice, although on a very small scale this time. Men take disaster in 
very different ways. Admiral Doenitz, for example, will not discuss Span- 
dau. He says he has put it away in a trunk and doesn't want to talk about 
it. Speer on the other hand talks easily about his imprisonment— more 
than easily: with serenity. 

Of course, motives may remain unrevealed, whatever Speer s earnest 
attempts to seek them out. It is unlikely that any man, despite his good 
intentions, can rid himself entirely of the need to see himself in a better 
light than his critics see him. Hans Frank, a co-defendant of Speer's, wrote 
his memoirs while awaiting execution; it was he who made the often 
quoted remark, "A thousand years shall pass and this guilt of Germany 
will not have been erased." Although disgusted with himself, Frank 
could not avoid telling in his recollections how he had respected 
the law and had tried to get the Fuehrer to respect it too. In this 
and other ways he salvaged what he could from a career he now de- 
plored. Albert Speer may not be entirely immune from this human failing, 

Introduction ( xvi 

but he has no intention of covering up or decorating anything. He put 
his life on the line in the Nuremberg courtroom and he now meets his 
German and foreign critics with calm assurance, with sorrow for the irre- 
trievable mistakes he made but the conviction that he has paid for them 
as far as he could and as far as his judges thought he should. 

Some of his self-discoveries leave him still with ambivalent judg- 
ments. When he first met the Fuehrer, Speer writes, it was at a time in 
his career when, like Faust, he would have gladly sold his soul to the 
devil in exchange for a patron who would make use of his architectural 
services. And something resembling the Faustian pact was made. All his 
energies and abilities Speer eagerly placed at Hitler's disposal, although 
he fought off everyone, including Hitler, who obstructed his single-minded 
drive to do his job. Speer's early admiration for the Fuehrer slowly dimin- 
ished as Hitler became increasingly capricious and unapproachable; when 
Hitler ordered everything blown up, Speer refused to obey him and was 
ready to kill him to prevent the orders from being carried out. Neverthe- 
less, he made a flight to the bunker in Berlin under the guns of the Russian 
planes and troops a few days before Hitler's suicide in order to say 

Speer has given us two versions of this flight. In an interview pub- 
lished in Der Spiegel just after he was released from Spandau he said he 
went to Berlin to attempt to persuade one of his close collaborators, 
Friedrich Liischen, to leave the city. In these memoirs, however, the story 
is told somewhat differently. Speer writes that he did have Liischen's 
rescue in mind and also wanted to save Dr. Brandt, an old friend and 
Hitler's personal physician, who had fallen into the hands of Himmler's 
SS. In the last stages of his trip to Berlin Speer learned that Brandt was 
no longer in the city and he could not reach Liischen, but he nevertheless 
decided to continue his journey. He knows now that he had to go to Berlin 
to say farewell to the man whom he owed so much and for whom he felt 
such deeply mixed emotions. 

Speer always intends to be as ruthlessly honest in his self-portrait 
as he is in those he draws of others. He has written that even today he is 
glad that he said farewell to the wreck of a man who, when Speer de- 
parted, absent-mindedly gave him a limp hand to shake, without a word 
that spoke of their long association. What made him change his mind 
about the reasons for the flight? I suggest that the change is evidence of 
the continuing reevaluation of his reasons for acting as he did. It seems 
likely that during the interview in Der Spiegel he told reporters what read- 
ily came to mind and that only later, as he reexamined his present f eelings 
in the context of these memoirs, did he see clearly why he had gone to 
Berlin and how even today he is not rid of the spell of the Fuehrer he 
served for so many crowded years. Speer has no prettified self-image to 
protect. His fellow prisoner, von Schirach, who was released from Span- 

xvii ) Introduction 

dau at the same time as Speer, may defend what he takes to be his own 
services to Germany, but Speer bears the full burden of his past and 
attempts to carry out his self-imposed obligation to come to grips with 
whatever he has done no matter what the cost to his self-esteem. So the 
true story emerges, as I think it has, as far as the author is able to re- 
member and comprehend it, throughout these pages. 

This careful self -scrutiny occurs too in connection with his part in the 
treatment of the Jews. Actually Speer played no role whatever in the 
Jew-baiting or in the exterminations. The exterminations were known to 
comparatively few people. Even those most concerned, the Jews in con- 
centration camps, and incredibly, many of those within sight of the gas 
chambers, refused to believe the stories they heard.* The mass killings 
were beyond imagination— they sounded like clumsy propaganda; Speer, 
however, was in a position to find out about them. He tells us that one 
of his friends, Gauleiter Hanke, had visited Auschwitz and warned him 
in the summer of 1944 against making a similar visit. But the Minister 
of Armaments and War Production had no business that required him to 
be concerned with rumors of any death mills; his business was with the 
prisoners who could man his factories, so he never pursued the matter, 
never looked behind the terrible curtain Hanke had pointed out to him. 
He preferred not to know, to turn his face away, to concentrate on his 
own huge task. He believes this was a grievous failure, a sin of omission 
more inexcusable than any crime he may have committed. 

It is for this reason that Speer did not resist his long prison term as 
did, for example, Admiral Doenitz. Doenitz always felt himself unjustly 
convicted; he has a large volume of letters from British and American 
naval officers sharing his view who wrote to him, on their own initiative, 
to protest the Nuremberg court's verdict and his sentence of ten years. 
In Speer's case too, non-Germans, including the three Western governors 
of the prison, had taken the view that he had been given an excessive 
sentence and had recommended a commutation, but the Russians who had 
voted to hang Speer held him to his full term. Speer has no complaint 
to make against the Russians or anyone else. He came to know the 
Russian guards well at Spandau; they exchanged stories about their 
children and families and no one ever mentioned the past. Speer was 
grateful for that; he knew his jailers had undoubtedly lost friends and 
relatives because he had kept the German war machine rolling and that 
they had good reason to be hostile. But they were not hostile; nor was the 

* Two recent publications have dealt with this astonishing incomprehension. 
One, The Destruction of the Dutch Jews, was witten by Jacob Presser, who was him- 
self a concentration camp prisoner. The other is an article by Louis de Jong, director 
of the Dutch Institute of War Documentation; it is entitled "Die Niederlander und 
Auschwitz" and appeared in the January 1969 issue of the Vierteljahrshefte, pub- 
lished by the Inslitut fiir Zeitgeschichte in Munich. 

Introduction ( xviii 

former slave laborer who befriended Speer in prison, because he thought 
Speer had seen to it, in the days of his forced labor, that he be tolerably 

It is Speer s spirit of contrition, this complete acknowledgment of so 
much that went wrong, of so much that he feels was lacking in him in his 
days of power, as well as the perceptiveness of his observations, that makes 
this book such an unusual document. It tells us much of how history was 
made, and something too of the moral dilemma of a civilized man 
who had been given an enormous administrative assignment, that at first 
had seemed to him more a technological than a human problem. Much 
of what Speer tells us is related to an old story of hubris, of temptations 
of pride and position, and of the opportunity to create on a heroic scale. 
In the euphoria of history-making activity, unpleasant facts were ignored; 
they were no more than obstacles to the achievement of the grand design. 
But with the collapse of everything he had lived for and lived by, Speer 
came to judge himself more strictly than the Nuremberg court could judge 
him. It is in this long, painful struggle for self -enlightenment that we may 
see that whatever he lost when he made his pact with Adolf Hitler, it was 
not his soul. 

Eugene Davidson 
May 1970 

Every autobiography is a dubious enterprise. 
For the underlying assumption is that a chair 
exists in which a man can sit down to con- 
template his own life, to compare its phases, 
to survey its development, and to penetrate 
its meanings. Every man can and surely 
ought to take stock of himself. But he cannot 
survey himself even in the present moment, 
any more than in the whole of his past, 

Karl Barth 



"I suppose you'll be writing your memoirs now?" said one of the 
first Americans I met in Flensburg in May 1945. Since then twenty-four 
years have passed, of which I spent twenty-one in a prison cell. A long 

Now I am publishing my memoirs. I have tried to describe the past as 
I experienced it. Many will think it distorted; many will find my perspec- 
tive wrong. That may or may not be so: I have set forth what I experi- 
enced and the way I regard it today. In doing so I have tried not to 
falsify the past. My aim has been not to gloss over either what was fasci- 
nating or what was horrible about those years. Other participants will 
criticize me, but that is unavoidable. I have tried to be honest. 

One of the purposes of these memoirs is to reveal some of the 
premises which almost inevitably led to the disasters in which that period 
culminated. I have sought to show what came of one man's holding unre- 
stricted power in his hands and also to clarify the nature of this man. In 
court at Nuremberg I said that if Hitler had had any friends, I would have 
been his friend. I owe to him the enthusiasms and the glory of my youth 
as well as belated horror and guilt. 

In the description of Hitler as he showed himself to me and to others, 
a good many likable traits will appear. He may seem to be a man capable 
and devoted in many respects. But the more I wrote, the more I felt that 
these were only superficial traits. 

For such impressions are countered by one unforgettable experience: 
the Nuremberg Trial. I shall never forget the account of a Jewish family 
going to their deaths: the husband with his wife and children on the way 
to die are before my eyes to this day. 

In Nuremberg I was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. The 
military tribunal may have been faulty in summing up history, but it 
attempted to apportion guilt. The penalty, however poorly such penalties 
measure historical responsibility, ended my civil existence. But that scene 
had already laid waste to my life. It has outlasted the verdict of the court. 

January 11, 1969 Albert Speer 



Origins and ^buth 

Some of my forefathers were swabians, some came from poor peas- 
ants of the Westerwald, others from Silesia and Westphalia. They be- 
longed to the great mass of those who live quiet, unnotable lives. There 
was one exception: Hereditary Reich Marshal Count Friedrich Ferdinand 
zu Pappenheim 1 (1702-93), who begot eight sons with my unmarried 
ancestress Humelin. He does not, however, seem to have worried much 
about their welfare. 

Three generations later my grandfather Hermann Hommel, son of a 
poor forester in the Black Forest, had become by the end of his life sole 
owner of one of the largest machine-tool firms in Germany and of a pre- 
cision-instrument factory. In spite of his wealth he lived modestly and 
treated his subordinates well. Hard-working himself, he knew how to let 
others work without interfering. A typical Black Forest brooder, he could 
sit for hours on a bench in the woods without wasting a word. 

My other grandfather, Berthold Speer, became a prosperous architect 
in Dortmund about this same time. He designed many buildings in the 
neoclassical style of the period. Though he died young, he left enough to 
provide for the education of his four sons. The success of both my grand- 
fathers was furthered by the rapid industrialization of Germany which 
began in the second half of the nineteenth century. But then, many per- 
sons who had started out from a better basis did not necessarily flourish. 

My father s mother, prematurely white-haired, inspired in me more 



respect than love in my boyhood. She was a serious woman, moored fast 
to simple notions about life and possessing an obstinate energy. She 
dominated everyone around her. 

I came into the world in Mannheim at noon on Sunday, March 19, 
1905. The thunder of a spring storm drowned out the bells of nearby 
Christ Church, as my mother often used to tell me. 

In 1892, at the age of twenty-nine, my father had established his own 
architectural firm. He had since become one of the busiest architects in 
Mannheim, then a booming industrial town. He had acquired a consider- 
able fortune by the time he married the daughter of a prosperous Mainz 
businessman in 1900. 

The upper-middle-class style of our apartment in one of his Mann- 
heim houses was commensurate with my parents' status. It was an im- 
posing house, built around a courtyard guarded by elaborate wrought-iron 
gates. Automobiles would drive into this courtyard and stop in front of a 
flight of stairs which provided a suitable entrance to the richly furnished 
house. But the children— my two brothers and I— had to use the back 
stairs. These were dark, steep, and narrow and ended unimpressively in a 
rear corridor. Children had no business in the elegant, carpeted front hall. 

As children our realm extended from our bedrooms in the rear wing 
to a vast kitchen. We had to pass through the kitchen to enter the elegant 
part of the f ourteen-room apartment. From a vestibule with a sham fire- 
place faced with valuable Delft tiles guests were conducted into a large 
room full of French furniture and Empire upholstery. The glittering 
crystal chandelier particularly is so impressed on my memory that I can 
see it to this day. So is the conservatory, whose appointments my father 
had bought at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900: richly carved Indian 
furniture, hand-embroidered curtains, and a tapestry-covered divan. 
Palms and other exotic plants suggested an exotic world. Here my parents 
had their breakfast and here my father would make ham rolls for us 
children of the kind that were eaten in his native Westphalia. My recollec- 
tion of the adjacent living room has faded, but the paneled, neo-Gothic 
dining room has kept its magic for me. The table could seat more than 
twenty. There my baptism was celebrated; there our family festivals take 
place to this day. 

My mother took great pleasure and pride in seeing to it that we 
belonged socially to the leading families of Mannheim. There were surely 
no more—but no less-thah twenty or thirty households in the city that 
enjoyed comparable luxuries. A large staff of servants helped meet the 
requirements of status. In addition to the cook— whom for obvious reasons 
we children were especially fond of-my parents employed a kitchen maid, 
a chambermaid, a butler frequently, and a chauffeur always, as well as a 
nanny to look after us. The maids wore white caps, black dresses, and 

5 ) Origins and Youth 

white aprons; the butler, purple livery with gilt buttons. The chauffeur 
was dressed most magnificently of all. 

My parents did their best to provide a happy childhood for us. But 
wealth and status— social obligations, the large household, the nanny, and 
the servants— stood in the way of their doing as they wished in this 
respect. To this day I can feel the artificiality and discomfort of that 
world. Moreover, I often had dizzy spells and sometimes fainted. The 
Heidelberg physician whom they consulted, a distinguished professor of 
medicine, diagnosed the cause as "weakness of the vascular nerves/' This 
disability was a considerable psychological burden and early made me 
conscious of the pressure of external conditions. I suffered all the more 
because my playmates and my two brothers were more robust than I, so 
that I felt inferior to them. In their rough and tumble way they often 
made it clear that this was how they thought of me, too. 

An inadequacy often calls forth compensating forces. In any case 
these difficulties made me learn how to adjust better to the world of other 
boys. If I later showed some aptitude in dealing with difficult circum- 
stances and troublesome people, I suspect that the gift can be traced back 
to my boyhood physical weakness. 

When we were taken out by our French governess, we had to be 
nattily dressed, in keeping with our social status. Naturally, we were 
forbidden to play in the city parks, let alone on the street. All we had for 
a playground was our courtyard— not much larger than a few of our 
rooms put together. It was surrounded by the backs of tall apartment 
houses. This yard contained two or three wretched plane trees, starved 
for air, and an ivy-covered wall. A mound of tufa rocks in one corner sug- 
gested a grotto. By early spring a thick layer of soot coated the greenery, 
and whatever we touched was bent on transforming us into dirty, dis- 
reputable big-city children. My favorite playmate, before my school days 
began, was Frieda Allmendinger, the concierge's daughter. The atmos- 
phere of sparse simplicity and the close-knit quality of a family living in 
crowded quarters had a curious attraction for me. 

I attended the primary grades at a distinguished private school where 
the children of leading families were taught reading and writing. After 
this sheltered environment, my first months in the public Oberrealschule 
(high school), amid rowdy fellow pupils, were especially hard for me. I 
had a friend named Quenzer, however, who soon introduced me to all 
sorts of fun and games. He also persuaded me to buy a soccer ball with 
my pocket money. This was a plebeian impulse which horrified my par- 
ents, all the more so since Quenzer came from a poor family. I think it 
was at this time that my bent for statistics first manifested itself. I re- 
corded all the bad marks in the class book in my "Phoenix Calendar for 
Schoolchildren/' and every month counted up who had received the most 


demerits. No doubt I would not have bothered if I had not had some 
prospect of frequently heading the list. 

The office of my f ather s architectural firm was right next door to our 
apartment. That was where the large renderings for the builders were 
made. Drawings of all sorts were made on a bluish transparent paper 
whose smell is still part and parcel of my memories of that office. My 
fathers buildings were influenced by the neo-Renaissance: they had by- 
passed Jugendstil. Later on, the quieter classicism of Ludwig Hoffmann, 
the influential city architect of Berlin, served him as a model. 

In that office I made my first "work of art" at the age of twelve. A 
birthday present for my father, it was a drawing of a sort of allegorical 
'life clock," in a highly ornamented case complete with Corinthian col- 
umns and intricate scrollwork. I used all the watercolors I could lay 
hands on. With the help of the office employees, I produced a reasonable 
facsimile of an object in Late Empire style. 

Before 1914 my parents kept a touring car for summer use as well as 
a sedan for driving around the city in winter. These automobiles were the 
focus of my technological passions. At the beginning of the war they 
had to be put upon blocks, to spare the tires; but if the chauffeur were 
well disposed to us, we children were allowed to sit at the steering wheel 
in the garage. At such times I experienced the first sensations of technical 
intoxication in a world that was yet scarcely technical. In Spandau prison 
I had to live like a man of the nineteenth century without a radio, tele- 
vision set, telephone, or car and was not even allowed to work the light 
switch myself. After ten years of imprisonment I experienced a similar 
rapture when I was allowed to run an electric floor polisher. 

In 1915 I encountered another product of the technical revolution 
of those decades. One of the zeppelins used in the air raids on London 
was stationed in Mannheim. The captain and his officers were soon fre- 
quent guests in our house. They invited my two brothers and me to tour 
their airship. Ten years old, I stood before that giant product of tech- 
nology, clambered into the motor gondola, made my way through the dim 
mysterious corridors inside the hull, and went into the control gondola. 
When the airship started, toward evening, the captain had it perform a 
neat loop over our house, and the officers waved a sheet they had bor- 
rowed from our mother. Night after night afterward I was in terror that 
the airship would go up in flames, and all my friends would be killed.* 

My imagination dwelt on the war, on the advances and retreats at 
the front, on the suffering of the soldiers. At night we sometimes heard a 
distant rumble from the great battle of attrition at Verdun. With the 
ardent sympathies of childhood, I would often sleep for several nights 
running on the hard floor beside my soft bed in order to be sharing the 
privations of the soldiers at the front. 

* In 1917 heavy losses made it necessary to call off the attacks. 

7 ) Origins and Youth 

We did not escape the food shortages in the city and what was then 
called the turnip winter. We had wealth, but no relatives or acquaintances 
in the countryside. My mother was clever at devising endless new varia- 
tions on turnip dishes, but I was often so hungry that in secret I gradually 
consumed a whole bag of stone-hard dog biscuits left over from peace- 
time. The air raids on Mannheim, which by present-day standards were 
quite innocuous, became more frequent. One small bomb struck a neigh- 
boring house. A new period of my boyhood began. 

Since 1905 we had owned a summer home in the vicinity of Heidel- 
berg. It stood on the slope of a quarry that was said to have supplied the 
stone for the nearby Heidelberg Schloss. Back of the slope rose the hills 
of the Odenwald with hiking paths through the ancient woods. Strip 
clearings provided occasional glimpses of the Neckar Valley. Here every- 
thing was peaceful; we could have a fine garden and vegetables, and the 
neighbor owned a cow. We moved there in the summer of 1918. 

My health soon improved. Every day, even in snowstorms and rain, 
I tramped for three-quarters of an hour to and from school, often at a 
steady run. Bicycles were not available in the straitened early postwar 

My way to school led me past the clubhouse of a rowing association. 
In 1919 1 became a member and for two years was coxswain of the racing 
fours and eights. In spite of my still frail constitution I soon became one 
of the most diligent oarsmen in the club. At the age of sixteen I advanced 
to stroke in the school shells and took part in several races. For the first 
time I had been seized by ambition and was spurred to performances I 
would not have thought myself capable of. What excited me was more 
the chance to direct the crew by my own rhythm than the prospect of 
winning respect in the small world of oarsmen. 

Most of the time we were defeated, to be sure. But since a team per- 
formance was involved, each individual's flaws could not be weighed. On 
the contrary, a sense of common action arose. There was another benefit 
to such training: the requirement of self -discipline. At the time I despised 
those among my schoolmates who were finding their first pleasures in 
dancing, wine, and cigarettes. 

On my way to school, at the age of seventeen, I met the girl who was 
to become my wife. Falling in love made me more studious, for a year 
later we agreed that we would be married as soon as I completed my uni- 
versity studies. I had long been good at mathematics; but now my marks 
in other subjects also improved, and I became one of the best in the class. 

Our German teacher, an enthusiastic democrat, often read aloud to 
us from the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung. But for this teacher I would have 
remained altogether nonpolitical in school. For we were being educated 
in terms of a conservative bourgeois view of the world. In spite of the 
Revolution which had brought in the Weimar Republic, it was still 


impressed upon us that the distribution of power in society and the 
traditional authorities were part of the God-given order of things. We 
remained largely untouched by the currents stirring everywhere during 
the early twenties. In school, there could be no criticism of courses or 
subject matter, let alone of the ruling powers in the state. Unconditional 
faith in the authority of the school was required. It never even occurred 
to us to doubt the order of things, for as students we were subjected to the 
dictates of a virtually absolutist system. Moreover, there were no subjects 
such as sociology which might have sharpened our political judgments. 
Even in our senior year, German class assignments called solely for 
essays on literary subjects, which actually prevented us from giving any 
thought to the problems of society. Nor did all these restrictions in 
school impel us to take positions on political events during extracurricular 
activities or outside of school. One decisive point of difference from the 
present was our inability to travel abroad. Even if funds for foreign travel 
had been available, no organizations existed to help young people under- 
take such travel. It seems to me essential to point out these lacks, as a 
result of which a whole generation was without defenses when exposed to 
the new techniques for influencing opinion. 

At home, too, politics were not discussed. This was all the odder 
since my father had been a convinced liberal even before 1914. Every 
morning he waited impatiently for the Frankfurter Zeitung to arrive; 
every week he read the critical magazines Simplicissimus and Jugend. He 
shared the ideas of Friedrich Naumann, who called for social reforms in 
a powerful Germany. After 1923 my father became a follower of Couden- 
hove-Kalergi and zealously advocated his pan-European ideas. Father 
would surely have been glad to talk about politics with me, but I tended 
to dodge such discussions and he did not insist. This political indifference 
was characteristic of the youth of the period, tired and disillusioned as 
they were by a lost war, revolution, and inflation; but it prevented me 
from forming political standards, from setting up categories on which 
political judgments could be based. I was much more inclined to detour 
on my way to school across the park of the Heidelberg Schloss and to 
linger on the terrace looking dreamily at the ruins of the castle and down 
at the old city. This partiality for tumbledown citadels and tangles of 
crooked old streets remained with me and later found expression in my 
passion for collecting landscape paintings, especially the works of the 
Heidelberg Romantics. On the way to the Schloss I sometimes met the 
poet Stefan George, who radiated dignity and pride and a kind of priestli- 
ness. The great religious preachers must have had such an effect upon 
people, for there was something magnetic about him. When my elder 
brother was in his senior year, he was admitted to the Master's inner 

Music meant a good deal to me. Up to 1922, 1 was able to hear the 

9 ) Origins and Youth 

young Furtwangler in Mannheim and after him, Erich Kleiber. At that 
time I found Verdi more impressive than Wagner and thought Puccini 
"frightful." On the other hand, I was ravished by a symphony of Rimsky- 
Korsakov and judged Mahler's Fifth Symphony "rather complicated, but 
I liked it." After a visit to the Playhouse, I observed that Georg Kaiser was 
"the most important modern dramatist who in his works wrestles with the 
concept of the value and power of money." And upon seeing Ibsen's The 
Wild Duck, I decided that we could not find the characteristics of the 
leaders of society as other than ridiculous. These people were "farcical," 
I wrote. Romain Holland's novel Jean Chrisiophe heightened my enthusi- 
asm for Beethoven. 2 

It was, therefore, not only in a burst of youthful rebelliousness that I 
found the luxurious life at home not to my liking. There was a more basic 
opposition involved when I turned to what were then the advanced 
writers and looked for friends in a rowing club or in the huts of the Alpine 
Club. The custom in my circles was for a young man to seek his com- 
panions and his future wife in the sheltered class to which his parents 
belonged. But I was drawn to plain, solid artisan families for both. I even 
felt an instinctive sympathy for the extreme left— though this inclination 
never assumed any concrete form. At the time I was allergic to any politi- 
cal commitments. That continued to be so, even though I felt strong 
nationalistic feelings— as for example, at the time of the French occupation 
of the Ruhr in 1923. 

To my amazement my Abitur essay was judged the best in my class. 
Nevertheless I thought, "That's hardly likely for you," when the head of 
the school in his farewell address told the graduates that now "the way to 
highest deeds and honors" was open to us. 

Since I was the best mathematician in the school, I had intended to 
study that subject. But my father presented sound reasons against this 
choice, and I would not have been a mathematician familiar with the 
laws of logic if I had not yielded to his arguments. The profession of 
architecture, which I had been absorbing naturally since my boyhood, 
seemed the obvious choice. I therefore decided, to my father's delight, to 
become an architect, like him and his father before him. 

During my first semester I studied at the Institute of Technology in 
nearby Karlsruhe. Financial reasons dictated this choice, for the inflation 
was growing wilder with each passing day. I had to draw my allowance 
weekly; by the end of the week the fabulous sum had melted away to 
nothing. From the Black Forest where I was on a bicycle tour in the 
middle of September 1923, I wrote: "Very cheap here! Lodgings 400,000 
marks and supper 1,800,000 marks. Milk 250,000 marks a pint." Six weeks 
later, shortly before the end of the inflation, a restaurant dinner cost ten 
to twenty billion marks, and even in the student dining hall over a billion. 


I had to pay between three and four hundred million marks for a theater 

The financial upheaval finally forced my family to sell my deceased 
grandfather's firm and factory to another company at a fraction of its 
value in return for "dollar treasury bills/' Afterward, my monthly allow- 
ance amounted to sixteen dollars—on which I was totally free of cares 
and could live splendidly. 

In the spring of 1924, with the inflation now over, I shifted to the 
Institute of Technology in Munich. Although I remained there until the 
summer of 1925 and Hitler, after his release from prison, was again 
making a stir in the spring of 1925, I took no notice of him. In my long 
letters to my fiancee I wrote only of how I was studying far into the night 
and of our common goal: getting married in three or four years. 

During the holidays my future wife and I with a few fellow students 
frequently went on tramps from shelter to shelter in the Austrian Alps. 
Hard climbs gave us the sense of real achievement. Sometimes, with 
characteristic obstinacy, I managed to convince my fellow hikers not to 
give up a tour we had started on, even in the worst weather— in spite of 
storms, icy rains, and cold, although mists spoiled the view from the peak 
when we finally reached it. Often, from the mountain tops, we looked 
down upon a deep gray layer of cloud over the distant plain. Down there 
lived what to our minds were wretched people; we thought we stood 
high above them in every sense. Young and rather arrogant, we were con- 
vinced that only the finest people went into the mountains. When we 
returned from the peaks to the normal life of the lowlands, I was quite 
confused for a while by the bustle of the cities. 

We also sought "closeness with nature" on trips with our folding 
boats. In those days this sport was still new; the streams were not filled 
with craft of all kinds as they are today. In perfect quiet we floated down 
the rivers, and in the evenings we could pitch our tent at the most 
beautiful spot we could find. This leisurely hiking and boating gave us 
some of that happiness that had been a matter of course to our fore- 
fathers. Even my father had taken a tour on foot and in horse carriages 
from Munich to Naples in 1885. Later, when he would drive through all 
of Europe in his car, he used to speak of that tour as the finest travel 
experience he had ever had. 

Many of our generation sought such contact with nature. This was 
not merely a romantic protest against the narrowness of middle-class life. 
We were also escaping from the demands of a world growing increasingly 
complicated. We felt that the world around us was out of balance. In 
nature, in the mountains and the river valleys, the harmony of Creation 
could still be felt. The more virginal the mountains, the lonelier the river 
valleys, the more they drew us. I did not, however, belong to any youth 
movement, for the group quality of these movements would have negated 
the very isolation we were seeking. 

ii ) Origins and Youth 

In the autumn of 1925, 1 began attending the Institute of Technology 
in Berlin-Charlottenburg, along with a group of Munich students of 
architecture. I wanted Professor Poelzig for my teacher, but he had set 
limits to the number of students in his drafting seminar. Since my talent 
for drawing was inadequate, I was not accepted. In any case, I was 
beginning to doubt that I would ever make a good architect and took this 
verdict without surprise. Next semester Professor Heinrich Tessenow was 
appointed to the institute. He was a champion of the spirit of simple 
craftsmanship in architecture and believed in architectonic expressiveness 
by severely delimited means. "A minimum of pomp is the decisive factor." 
I promptly wrote to my fiancee: 

My new professor is the most remarkable, most clear-headed man I 
have ever met. I am wild about him and am working with great eagerness. 
He is not modern, but in a certain sense more modern than all the others. 
Outwardly he seems unimaginative and sober, just like me, but his build- 
ings have something about them that expresses a profound experience. His 
intelligence is frighteningly acute. I mean to try hard to be admitted to his 
"master school" in a year, and after another year will try to become his 
assistant. Of course all this is wildly optimistic and is merely meant to trace 
what I'd like to do in the best of cases. 

Only half a year after completing my examination I became his 
assistant. In Professor Tessenow I had found my first catalyst— and 
he remained that for me until seven years later when he was replaced 
by a more powerful one. 

I also had great respect for our teacher of the history of architec- 
ture, Professor Daniel Krenkler. An Alsatian by birth, he was a ded- 
icated archaeologist and a highly emotional patriot as well. In the 
course of one lecture he burst into tears while showing us pictures 
of Strassburg Cathedral and had to suspend the lecture. For him I 
delivered a report on Albrecht Haupt's book on Germanic architecture, 
Die Baukunst der Germanen. But at the same time I wrote to my 

A little racial mixture is always good. And if today we are on the down- 
ward path, it is not because we are a mixed race. For we were already that 
in the Middle Ages when we still had a vigorous germ in us and were 
expanding, when we drove the Slavs out of Prussia, or later transplanted 
European culture to America. We are going downhill because our energies 
have been consumed; it is the same thing that happened in the past to the 
Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. There is nothing to be done about that. 

The twenties in Berlin were the inspiring backdrop to my student 
years. Many theatrical performances made a deep impression upon me— 
among others Max Reinhardt's staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream, 


Elisabeth Bergner in Shaw's Saint Joan, Pallenberg in Piscator's version of 
Schweik. But CharelTs lavishly mounted revues also fascinated me. On 
the other hand, I took no pleasure in Cecil B. De Mille's bombastic pomp 
—never suspecting that ten years later I myself would be going his movie 
architecture one better. As a student I thought his films examples of 
"American tastelessness." 

But overshadowing all such impressions was the poverty and unem- 
ployment all around me. Spengler s Decline of the West had convinced 
me that we were living in a period of decay strongly similar to the late 
Roman Empire: inflation, decline of morals, impotence of the German 
Reich. His essay "Prussianism and Socialism" excited me especially be- 
cause of the contempt for luxury and comfort it expressed. On this score, 
Spengler s and Tessenow's doctrines coincided. But my teacher, in con- 
trast to Spengler, saw hope for the future. He took an ironic tone toward 
the "cult of heroes" fashionable at the period. 

Perhaps there are really uncomprehended "super" heroes all around us 
who because of their towering aims and abilities may rightly smile at even 
the greatest of horrors, seeing them as merely incidental. Perhaps, before 
handicraft and the small town can flourish again, there must first come 
something like a rain of brimstone. Perhaps nations which have passed 
through infernos will then be ready for their next age of flowering. 3 

In the summer of 1927, after nine semesters, I passed the architect's 
license examination. The following spring, at twenty-three, I became one 
of the youngest assistants at the institute. In the last year of the war, I 
had gone to a fortuneteller at a fair, and she had prophesied: "You will 
win early fame and retire early." Now I had reason to think of this pre- 
diction; for it seemed evident that if only I wanted to I could some day 
teach at the Institute of Technology like my professor. 

This post as assistant made it possible for me to marry. We did not 
go to Italy for our honeymoon, but took faltboats and tent through the 
solitary, forested chain of lakes in Mecklenburg. We launched our boats 
in Spandau, a few hundred yards from the prison where I would be 
spending twenty years of my life. 

Profession and Vocation 


Aman Ullah, ruler of the Afghans, wanted to reform his country and 
was hiring young German technicians with that end in view. Joseph 
Brix, Professor of Urban Architecture and Road Building, organized the 
group. It was proposed that I would serve as city planner and architect 
and in addition as teacher of architecture at a technical school which was 
to be founded in Kabul. My wife and I pored over all available books on 
remote Afghanistan. We considered how a style natural to the country 
could be developed out of the simple existing structures, and the pictures 
of wild mountains filled us with dreams of ski tours. Favorable contractual 
conditions were worked out. But no sooner was everything virtually 
settled— the King had just been received with great honors by President 
Hindenburg— than the Afghans overthrew their ruler in a coup d'etat. 

The prospect of continuing to work with Tessenow consoled me. I 
had been having some misgivings anyhow, and I was glad that the fall of 
Aman Ullah removed the need to make a decision. I had to look after my 
seminar only three days a week; in addition there were five months of 
academic vacation. Nevertheless I received 300 Reichsmark— about the 
equivalent in value of 800 Deutsche Mark* [$200] today. Tessenow de- 

* All figures in DM do not take into account the 1969 revaluation of the mark. 
The reader can easily reckon the amounts in U.S. dollars by dividing DM figures 
by four. 

( 13) 


livered no lectures; he came to the large seminar room only to correct the 
papers of his fifty-odd students. He was around for no more than four to 
six hours a week; the rest of the time the students were left in my care for 
instruction and correction. 

The first months in particular were very strenuous for me. The stu- 
dents assumed a highly critical attitude toward me and tried to trap me 
into a show of ignorance or weakness. It took a while before my initial 
nervousness subsided. But the commissions for buildings, which I had 
hoped to spend my ample free time on, did not come my way. Probably I 
struck people as too young. Moreover, the construction industry was very 
slow because of the economic depression. One exception was the commis- 
sion to build a house in Heidelberg for my wife's parents. It proved to be 
a modest building which was followed by two others of no great con- 
sequence-two garage annexes for Wannsee villas— and the designing of 
the Berlin offices of the Academic Exchange Service. 

In 1930 we sailed our two faltboats from Donaueschingen, which is 
in Swabia, down the Danube to Vienna. By the time we returned, there 
had been a Reichstag election on September 14 which remains in my 
memory only because my father was greatly perturbed about it. The 
NSDAP (National Socialist Party) had won 107 seats and was suddenly 
the chief topic of political discussion. 

My father had the darkest forebodings, chiefly in view of the 
NSDAFs socialist tendencies. He was already disturbed enough by 
the strength of the Social Democrats and the Communists. 

Our Institute of Technology had in the meanwhile become a center 
of National Socialist endeavors. The small group of Communist archi- 
tecture students gravitated to Professor Poelzig's seminar, while the Na- 
tional Socialists gathered around Tessenow, even though he was and re- 
mained a forthright opponent of the Hitler movement, for there were 
parallels, unexpressed and unintended, between his doctrine and the ide- 
ology of the National Socialists. Tessenow was not aware of these parallels. 
He would surely have been horrified by the thought of any kinship be- 
tween his ideas and National Socialist views. 

Among other things, Tessenow taught: "Style comes from the people. 
It is in our nature to love our native land. There can be no true culture 
that is international. True culture comes only from the maternal womb 
of a nation." 1 

Hitler, too, denounced the internationalization of art. The National 
Socialist creed held that the roots of renewal were to be found in the 
native soil of Germany. 

Tessenow decried the metropolis and extolled the peasant virtues: 
The metropolis is a dreadful thing. The metropolis is a confusion of old 
and new. The metropolis is conflict, brutal conflict. Everything good 

15 ) Profession and Vocation 

should be left outside of big cities. . . . Where urbanism meets the 
peasantry, the spirit of the peasantry is ruined. A pity that people can no 
longer think in peasant terms." In a similar vein, Hitler cried out against 
the erosion of morals in the big cities. He warned against the ill effects of 
civilization which, he said, damaged the biological substance of the 
people. And he emphasized the importance of a healthy peasantry as a 
mainstay for the state. 

Hitler was able to sense these and other currents which were in the 
air of the times, though many of them were still diffuse and intangible. 
He was able to articulate them and to exploit them for his own ends. 

In the process of my correcting their papers, the National Socialist 
students often involved me in political discussions. Naturally, Tessenow's 
ideas were passionately debated. Well trained in dialectics, these students 
easily crushed the feeble objections I could make, borrowed as they were 
from my father's vocabulary. 

The students were chiefly turning to the extremists for their beliefs, 
and Hitler's party appealed directly to the idealism of this generation. 
And after all, was not a man like Tessenow also fanning these flames? 
About 1931 he had declared: "Someone will have to come along who 
thinks very simply. Thinking today has become too complicated. An un- 
cultured man, a peasant as it were, would solve everything much more 
easily merely because he would still be unspoiled. He would also have 
the strength to carry out his simple ideas." 2 To us this oracular remark 
seemed to herald Hitler. 

Hitler was delivering an address to the students of Berlin University 
and the Institute of Technology. My students urged me to attend. Not yet 
convinced, but already uncertain of my ground, I went along. The site of 
the meeting was a beer hall called the Hasenheide. Dirty walls, narrow 
stairs, and an ill-kept interior created a poverty-stricken atmosphere. This 
was a place where workmen ordinarily held beer parties. The room was 
overcrowded. It seemed as if nearly all the students in Berlin wanted to 
see and hear this man whom his adherents so much admired and his 
opponents so much detested. A large number of professors sat in favored 
places in the middle of a bare platform. Their presence gave the meeting 
an importance and a social acceptability that it would not otherwise have 
had. Our group had also secured good seats on the platform, not far from 
the lectern. 

Hitler entered and was tempestuously hailed by his numerous fol- 
lowers among the students. This enthusiasm in itself made a great im- 
pression upon me. But his appearance also surprised me. On posters and 
in caricatures I had seen him in military tunic, with shoulder straps, 
swastika armband, and hair flapping over his forehead. But here he was 
wearing a well-fitted blue suit and looking markedly respectable. Every- 


thing about him bore out the note of reasonable modesty. Later I learned 
that he had a great gift for adjusting— consciously or intuitively— to his 

As the ovation went on for minutes he tried, as if slightly pained, to 
check it. Then, in a low voice, hesitantly and somewhat shyly, he began 
a kind of historical lecture rather than a speech. To me there was some- 
thing engaging about it— all the more so since it ran counter to everything 
the propaganda of his opponents had led me to expect: a hysterical dema- 
gogue, a shrieking and gesticulating fanatic in uniform. He did not allow 
the bursts of applause to tempt him away from his sober tone. 

It seemed as if he were candidly presenting his anxieties about the 
future. His irony was softened by a somewhat self-conscious humor; his 
South German charm reminded me agreeably of my native region. A cool 
Prussian could never have captivated me that way. Hitlers initial shyness 
soon disappeared; at times now his pitch rose. He spoke urgently and with 
hypnotic persuasiveness. The mood he cast was much deeper than the 
speech itself, most of which I did not remember for long. 

Moreover, I was carried on the wave of the enthusiasm which, one 
could almost feel this physically, bore the speaker along from sentence 
to sentence. It swept away any skepticism, any reservations. Opponents 
were given no chance to speak. This furthered the illusion, at least mo- 
mentarily, of unanimity. Finally, Hitler no longer seemed to be speaking 
to convince; rather, he seemed to feel that he was expressing what the 
audience, by now transformed into a single mass, expected of him. It was 
as if it were the most natural thing in the world to lead students and part 
of the faculty of the two greatest academies in Germany submissively by 
a leash. Yet that evening he was not yet the absolute ruler, immune from 
all criticism, but was still exposed to attacks from all directions. 

Others may afterward have discussed that stirring evening over a 
glass of beer. Certainly my students pressed me to do so. But I felt I had 
to straighten things out in my own mind, to master my confusion. I needed 
to be alone. Shaken, I drove off into the night in my small car, stopped in 
a pine forest near the Havel, and went for a long walk. 

Here, it seemed to me, was hope. Here were new ideals, a new un- 
derstanding, new tasks. Even Spengler s dark predictions seemed to me 
refuted, and his prophecy of the coming of a new Roman emperor 
simultaneously fulfilled. The peril of communism, which seemed inexor- 
ably on its way, could be checked, Hitler persuaded us, and instead of 
hopeless unemployment, Germany could move toward economic recovery. 
He had mentioned the Jewish problem only peripherally. But such re- 
marks did not worry me, although I was not an anti-Semite; rather, I 
had Jewish friends from my school days and university days, like virtually 
everyone else. 

A few weeks after this speech, which had been so important to me, 

17 ) Profession and Vocation 

friends took me to a demonstration at the Sportpalast. Goebbels, the 
Gauleiter of Berlin, spoke. How different my impression was: much 
phrase-making, careful structure, and incisive formulations; a roaring 
crowd whom Goebbels whipped up to wilder and wilder frenzies of 
enthusiasm and hatred; a witches' cauldron of excitement such as I had 
hitherto witnessed only at six-day bike races. I felt repelled; the positive 
effect Hitler had had upon me was diminished, though not extinguished. 

Both Goebbels and Hitler had understood how to unleash mass in- 
stincts at their meetings, how to play on the passions that underlay the 
veneer of ordinary respectable life. Practiced demagogues, they succeeded 
in fusing the assembled workers, petits bourgeois, and students into a 
homogeneous mob whose opinions they could mold as they pleased. . . . 
But as I see it today, these politicians in particular were in fact molded 
by the mob itself, guided by its yearnings and its daydreams. Of course 
Goebbels and Hitler knew how to penetrate through to the instincts of 
their audiences; but in the deeper sense they derived their whole existence 
from these audiences. Certainly the masses roared to the beat set by Hit- 
lers and Goebbels's baton; yet they were not the true conductors. The mob 
determined the theme. To compensate for misery, insecurity, unemploy- 
ment, and hopelessness, this anonymous assemblage wallowed for hours 
at a time in obsessions, savagery, license. This was no ardent nationalism. 
Rather, for a few short hours the personal unhappiness caused by the 
breakdown of the economy was replaced by a frenzy that demanded 
victims. And Hitler and Goebbels threw them the victims. By lashing out 
at their opponents and villifying the Jews they gave expression and direc- 
tion to fierce, primal passions. 

The Sportpalast emptied. The crowd moved calmly down Potsdamer 
Strasse. Their self-assurance fed by Goebbels's speech, they challengingly 
took up the whole width of the street, so that automobile traffic and the 
streetcars were blocked. At first the police took no action; perhaps they 
did not want to provoke the crowd. But in the side streets mounted squads 
and trucks with special patrols were held in readiness. At last the mounted 
police rode into the crowd, with raised truncheons, to clear the street. 
Indignantly, I watched the procedure; until that moment I had never 
witnessed such use of force. At the same time I felt a sense of partisanship, 
compounded of sympathy for the crowd and opposition to authority, take 
possession of me. My feelings probably had nothing to do with political 
motives. Actually, nothing extraordinary had happened. There had not 
even been any injuries. 

The following day I applied for membership in the National Socialist 
Party and in January 1931 became Member Number 474,481. 

It was an utterly undramatic decision. Then and ever afterward I 
scarcely felt myself to be a member of a political party. I was not choosing 
the NSDAP, but becoming a follower of Hitler, whose magnetic force had 


reached out to me the first time I saw him and had not, thereafter, re- 
leased me. His persuasiveness, the peculiar magic of his by no means 
pleasant voice, the oddity of his rather banal manner, the seductive sim- 
plicity with which he attacked the complexity of our problems— all that 
bewildered and fascinated me. I knew virtually nothing about his pro- 
gram. He had taken hold of me before I had grasped what was happening. 

I was not even thrown off by attending a meeting of the racist 
Kampfbund Deutscher Kultur (League of Struggle for German Culture), 
although I heard many of the aims advocated by our teacher Tessenow 
roundly condemned. One of the speakers called for a return to old- 
fashioned forms and artistic principles; he attacked modernism and finally 
berated Der Ring, the society of architects to which Tessenow, Gropius, 
Mies van der Rohe, Scharoun, Mendelsohn, Taut, Behrens, and Poelzig 
belonged. Thereupon one of our students sent a letter to Hitler in which 
he took exception to this speech and spoke with schoolboyish ardor of our 
admired master. Soon afterward he received a routine letter from party 
headquarters to the effect that National Socialists had the greatest respect 
for the work of Tessenow. We laid great weight on that. However, I did 
not tell Tessenow at the time about my membership in the party.* 

It must have been during these months that my mother saw an SA 
parade in the streets of Heidelberg. The sight of discipline in a time of 
chaos, the impression of energy in an atmosphere of universal hopeless- 
ness, seems to have won her over also. At any rate, without ever having 
heard a speech or read a pamphlet, she joined the party. Both of us seem 
to have felt this decision to be a breach with a liberal family tradition. 
In any case, we concealed it from one another and from my father. Only 
years later, long after I had become part of Hitlers inner circle, did my 
mother and I discover by chance that we shared early membership in the 

Quite often even the most important step in a mans life, his choice of 
vocation, is taken quite frivolously. He does not bother to find out enough 
about the basis and the various aspects of that vocation. Once he has 
chosen it, he is inclined to switch off his critical awareness and to fit 
himself wholly into the predetermined career. 

My decision to enter Hitler's party was no less frivolous. Why, for 

* After 1933 all the accusations made against Tessenow at this meeting, as well 
as his connection with the publisher Cassirer and his circle, were cited as mcriminat- 
ing. He became politically suspect and was barred from teaching. But thanks to my 
privileged position, I was able to persuade the Minister of Education to have him 
reinstated. He kept his chair at the Berlin Institute of Technology until the end of 
the war. After 1945 his reputation soared; he was elected one of the first rectors of 
Berlin's Technical University. "After 1933, Speer soon became a total stranger to me," 
Tessenow wrote to my wife in 1950, "but I have never thought of him as anything 
but the friendly, good-natured person I used to know." 

ig ) Profession and Vocation 

example, was I willing to abide by the almost hypnotic impression Hitler's 
speech had made upon me? Why did I not undertake a thorough, system- 
atic investigation of, say, the value or worthlessness of the ideologies of 
all the parties? Why did I not read the various party programs, or at least 
Hitlers Mein Kampf and Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century? 
As an intellectual I might have been expected to collect documentation 
with the same thoroughness and to examine various points of view with 
the same lack of bias that I had learned to apply to my preliminary archi- 
tectural studies. This failure was rooted in my inadequate political school- 
ing. As a result, I remained uncritical, unable to deal with the arguments 
of my student friends, who were predominantly indoctrinated with the 
National Socialist ideology. 

For had I only wanted to, I could have found out even then that 
Hitler was proclaiming expansion of the Reich to the east; that he was a 
rank anti-Semite; that he was committed to a system of authoritarian 
rule; that after attaining power he intended to eliminate democratic pro- 
cedures and would thereafter yield only to force. Not to have worked 
that out for myself; not, given my education, to have read books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers of various viewpoints; not to have tried to see 
through the whole apparatus of mystification— was already criminal. At 
this initial stage my guilt was as grave as, at the end, my work for Hitler. 
For being in a position to know and nevertheless shunning knowledge 
creates direct responsibility for the consequences— from the very begin- 

I did see quite a number of rough spots in the party doctrines. But I 
assumed that they would be polished in time, as has often happened in 
the history of other revolutions. The crucial fact appeared to me to be 
that I personally had to choose between a future Communist Germany 
or a future National Socialist Germany since the political center between 
these antipodes had melted away. Moreover, in 1931, I had some reason 
to feel that Hitler was moving in a moderate direction. I did not realize 
that there were opportunistic reasons for this. Hitler was trying to ap- 
pear respectable in order to seem qualified to enter the government. The 
party at that time was confining itself— as far as I can recall today— to 
denouncing what it called the excessive influence of the Jews upon vari- 
ous spheres of cultural and economic life. It was demanding that their 
participation in these various areas be reduced to a level consonant with 
their percentage of the population. Moreover, Hitler's alliance with the 
old-style nationalists of the Harzburg Front led me to think that a con- 
tradiction could be detected between his statements at public meetings 
and his political views. I regarded this contradiction as highly promising. 
In actuality Hitler only wanted to thrust his way to power by whatever 
means he could. 

Even after joining the party I continued to associate with Jewish 


acquaintances, who for their part did not break relations with me although 
they knew or suspected that I belonged to this anti-Semitic organization. 
At that time I was no more an anti-Semite than I became in the following 
years. In none of my speeches, letters, or actions is there any trace of anti- 
Semitic feelings or phraseology. 

Had Hitler announced, before 1933, that a few years later he would 
burn down Jewish synagogues, involve Germany in a war, and kill Jews 
and his political opponents, he would at one blow have lost me and proba- 
bly most of the adherents he wonafter 1930. Goebbels had realized that, 
for on November 2, 1931, he wrote an editorial in the Angriff entitled "Sep- 
temberlings" concerning the host of new members who joined the party 
after the September election of 1930. In this editorial he warned the party 
against the infiltration of more bourgeois intellectuals who came from 
the propertied and educated classes and were not as trustworthy as the 
Old Fighters. In character and principles, he maintained, they stood 
abysmally far below the good old party comrades, but they were far 
ahead in intellectual skills: "They are of the opinion that the Movement 
has been brought to greatness by the talk of mere demagogues and are 
now prepared to take it over themselves and provide it with leadership 
and expertise. That's what they think!" 

In making this decision to join the accursed party, I had for the first 
time denied my own past, my upper-middle-class origins, and my pre- 
vious environment. Far more than I suspected, the "time of decision" was 
already past for me. I felt, in Martin Buber's phrase, "anchored in respon- 
sibility in a party." My inclination to be relieved of having to think, 
particularly about unpleasant facts, helped to sway the balance. In this 
I did not differ from millions of others. Such mental slackness above all 
facilitated, established, and finally assured the success of the National 
Socialist system. And I thought that by paying my party dues of a few 
marks a month I had settled with my political obligations. 

How incalculable the consequences were! 

The superficiality of my attitude made the fundamental error all the 
worse. By entering Hitler's party I had already, in essence, assumed a 
responsibility that led directly to the brutalities of forced labor, to the 
destruction of war, and to the deaths of those millions of so-called un- 
desirable stock— to the crushing of justice and the elevation of every evil. 
In 1931 I had no idea that fourteen years later I would have to answer 
for a host of crimes to which I subscribed beforehand by entering the 
party. I did not yet know that I would atone with twenty-one years of my 
life for frivolity and thoughtlessness and breaking with tradition. Still, I 
will never be rid of that sin. 




to speak chiefly of my professional life, my family, and my inclinations. 
For my new political interests played a subsidiary part in my thinking. I 
was above all an architect. 

As owner of a car I became a member of the newly founded Motorists 
Association of the National Socialist Party (NSKK), and since it was a 
new organization I promptly started as head of the Wannsee Section— 
Wannsee was the Berlin suburb where we lived. For the time being, any 
serious political activity for the party was far from my thoughts. I was, 
incidentally, the only member in Wannsee, and therefore in my section, 
who had a car; the other members only expected to have one after the 
"revolution" they dreamed of took place. By way of preparation they 
were finding out where in that rich suburb the right cars were available 
for X Day. 

This party office sometimes led to my calling at Kreisleitung West 
(District Headquarters of the West End), which was headed by an un- 
complicated but intelligent and highly energetic young journeyman miller 
named Karl Hanke. He had just leased a villa in elegant Grunewald as 
the future quarters for his district organization. For after its success in the 
elections of September 14, 1930, the party was trying hard to establish its 
respectability. He offered me the job of redecorating the villa— naturally 
without fee. 


We conferred on wallpapers, draperies, and paints. The young dis- 
trict leader chose Bauhaus wallpapers at my suggestion, although I had 
hinted that these were "Communistic" wallpapers. He waved that warn- 
ing aside with a grand gesture: "We will take the best of everything, even 
from the Communists." In saying this he was expressing what Hitler and 
his staff had already been doing for years: picking up anything that 
promised success without regard for ideology— in fact, determining even 
ideological questions by their effect upon the voters. 

I had the vestibule painted bright red and the offices a strong yellow, 
further sparked by scarlet window hangings. For me this work was the 
fulfillment of a long unrealized urge to try my hand at practical architec- 
ture, and no doubt I wanted to express a revolutionary spirit. But my 
decor met with a divided reception. 

Early in 1932 the salaries of professors' assistants were reduced— a 
small gesture toward balancing the strained budget of the State of Prus- 
sia. Sizable building projects were nowhere in sight; the economic situ- 
ation was hopeless. Three years of working as an assistant were enough 
for us. My wife and I decided that I would give up my post with Tessenow 
and we would move to Mannheim. I would manage the buildings owned 
by my family and that would give us financial security and allow me to 
start seriously on my career as an architect, which so far had been dis- 
tinctly inglorious. 

In Mannheim I sent innumerable letters to the companies in the 
vicinity and to my fathers business friends offering my services as an 
"independent architect." But of course I waited in vain for a builder 
who was willing to engage a twenty-six-year-old architect. Even well- 
established architects in Mannheim were not getting any commissions in 
those times. By entering prize competitions I tried to attract some atten- 
tion to myself. But I did no better than win third prizes and have a few of 
my plans purchased. Rebuilding a store in one of my parents' buildings 
was my sole architectural activity in this dreary period. 

The party here was marked by the easygoing atmosphere typical of 
Baden. After the exciting party affairs in Berlin, into which I had grad- 
ually been drawn, I felt in Mannheim as if I were a member of a bowling 
club. There was no Motorists Association, so Berlin assigned me to the 
Motorized SS. At the time I thought that meant I was a member, but 
apparently I was only a guest; for in 1942 when I wanted to renew my 
membership it turned out that I had not belonged to the Motorized SS 
at all. 

When the preparations for the election of July 31, 1932, started, my 
wife and I went to Berlin in order to feel a little of the exciting election 
atmosphere and— if possible— to help somewhat. For the persistent stag- 
nation of my professional life had greatly intensified my interest, or what 
I thought was that, in politics. I wanted to do my bit to contribute to 

23 ) Junction 

Hitler's electoral victory. This stay in Berlin was meant to be merely a 
few days' break, for from there we planned to go on to make a long- 
planned faltboat tour of the East Prussian lakes. 

I reported along with my car to my NSKK chief of the Berlin Kreis- 
leitung West, Will Nagel, who used me for courier duty to a wide variety 
of local party headquarters. When I had to drive into the parts of the 
city dominated by the "Reds," I often felt distinctly uncomfortable. In 
those areas, Nazi bands were quartered in cellar apartments that rather 
resembled holes in the ground and were subject to a good deal of har- 
rassment. The Communist outposts in the areas dominated by the Nazis 
were in a similar situation. I cannot forget the careworn and anxious 
face of a troop leader in the heart of Moabit, one of the most dangerous 
areas at the time. These people were risking their lives and sacrificing 
their health for an idea, never imagining that they were being exploited 
in behalf of the fantastic notions of a power-hungry man. 

On July 27, 1932, Hitler was to arrive at the Berlin-Staaken airport 
from a morning meeting in Eberswalde. I was assigned to drive a courier 
from Staaken to the site of the next meeting, the Brandenburg Stadium. 
The three-motored plane rolled to a stop. Hitler and several of his associ- 
ates and adjutants got out. Aside from myself and the courier, there was 
scarcely anyone at the airport. I kept at a respectful distance, but I saw 
Hitler reproving one of his companions because the cars had not yet 
arrived. He paced back and forth angrily, slashing at the tops of his high 
boots with a dog whip and giving the general impression of a cross, un- 
controlled man who treats his associates contemptuously. 

This Hitler was very different from the man of calm and civilized 
manner who had so impressed me at the student meeting. Although I did 
not give much thought to it, what I was seeing was an example of Hitler's 
remarkable duplicity— indeed, "multiplicity" would be a better word. 
With enormous histrionic intuition he could shape his behavior to chang- 
ing situations in public while letting himself go with his intimates, ser- 
vants, or adjutants. 

The cars came. I took my passenger into my rattling roadster and 
drove at top speed a few minutes ahead of Hitler's motorcade. In Branden- 
burg the sidewalks close to the stadium were occupied by Social Demo- 
crats and Communists. With my passenger wearing the party uniform, the 
temper of the crowd grew ugly. When Hitler with his entourage arrived 
a few minutes later, the demonstrators overflowed into the street. Hitler's 
car had to force its way through at a snail's pace. Hitler stood erect beside 
the driver. At that time I felt respect for his courage, and still do. The 
negative impression that his behavior at the airport had made upon me 
was wiped out by this scene. 

I waited outside the stadium with my car. Consequently I did not 
hear the speech, only the storms of applause that interrupted Hitler for 


minutes at a time. When the party anthem indicated the end, we started 
out again. For that day Hitler was speaking at still a third meeting in the 
Berlin Stadium. Here, too, the stands were jammed. Thousands who had 
not been able to obtain admission stood outside in the streets. For hours 
the crowd waited patiently; once more Hitler was very late. My report to 
Hanke that Hitler was on his way was promptly announced over the loud- 
speaker. A roar of applause burst out— incidentally the first and only 
applause that I myself was ever the cause of. 

The following day decided my future. The faltboats were already at 
the railroad station and our tickets to East Prussia purchased. We were 
planning to take the evening train. But at noon I received a telephone 
call. NSKK Chief Nagel informed me that Hanke, who had now risen to 
organization leader of the Berlin District, wanted to see me. 

Hanke received me joyfully. Tve been looking everywhere for you. 
Would you like to rebuild our new district headquarters?" he asked as 
soon as I entered. 'Til propose it to the Doctor* today. We're in a great 
hurry. ,, 

A few hours later I would have been sitting in the train and on the 
lonely East Prussian lakes would have been out of reach for weeks. The 
district would have had to find another architect. For years I regarded 
this coincidence as the luckiest turning point in my life. I had reached 
the junction. 

Two decades later, in Spandau, I read in Sir James Jeans: 

The course of a railway train is uniquely prescribed for it at most points 
of its journey by the rails on which it runs. Here and there, however, it 
comes to a junction at which alternative courses are open to it, and it may 
be turned on to one or the other by the quite negligible expenditure of 
energy involved in moving the points. 

The new district headquarters was situated on imposing Voss Strasse, 
cheek by jowl with the legations of the German states. From the rear 
windows I could see eighty-five-year-old President von Hindenburg stroll- 
ing in the adjacent park, often in the company of politicians or military 
men. As Hanke said to me, even in visual terms the party wanted to ad- 
vance to the immediate vicinity of political power and thus make a politi- 
cal impression. My assignment was not so impressive; once again it came 
down to repainting the walls and making minor alterations. The furnish- 
ing of a conference room and the Gauleiter's office likewise turned out to 
be a fairly plain affair, partly for lack of funds, partly because I was still 
under Tessenow's influence. But this modesty was offset by the ornate 
carved woods and molded plaster of the Griinderzeit, the boom period 

This was how Goebbels was always referred to in party circles. The party 
simply did not have many doctors of philosophy among its members in those days. 

25 ) Junction 

of the early eighteen-seventies. I worked day and night because the dis- 
trict was anxious to have the place ready as soon as possible. I seldom 
saw Gauleiter Goebbels. The campaign for the forthcoming elections of 
November 6, 1932, was taking up all his time. Harried and hoarse, he 
deigned to be shown the rooms several times, but without evincing much 

The renovations were finished, the estimate of costs far exceeded, 
and the election was lost. Membership shrank; the treasurer wrung his 
hands over the unpaid bills. To the workmen he could show only his 
empty cashbox. As party members they had to consent to wait for their 
pay, in order not to bankrupt the party. 

A few days after the dedication Hitler also inspected the district 
headquarters, which was named after him. I heard that he liked what he 
saw, which filled me with pride, although I was not sure whether he had 
praised the architectural simplicity I had striven for or the ornateness of 
the original Wilhelmine structure. 

Soon afterward I returned to my Mannheim office. Nothing had 
changed; the economic situation and therefore the prospect of commis- 
sions had grown worse, if anything. Political conditions were becoming 
even more confused. One crisis followed on the heels of another, and we 
paid no attention. For us, things went on as before. On January 30, 1933, 
I read of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, but for the time being that 
did not affect me. Shortly afterward I attended a membership meeting 
of the Mannheim local party group. I was struck by the low personal and 
intellectual level of the members. "A country cannot be governed by such 
people," I briefly thought. My concern was needless. The old bureaucratic 
apparatus continued to run the affairs of state smoothly under Hitler, 

Then came the election of March 5, 1933, and a week later I received 
a telephone call from District Organization Leader Hanke in Berlin: 

* Particularly in the early years Hitler achieved his successes largely by using 
the existing organizations that he had taken over. In the administrative bureaucracy 
the old civil servants carried on as before. Hitler found his military leaders among 
the elite of the old Imperial Army and the Reichswehr. Practical matters concerning 
labor were still partially in the hands of the old union officials. And later, of course 
(after I introduced the principle of industrial self-responsibility), the directors who 
helped to achieve the extraordinary increase in armaments production from 1942 
on were ones who had already made names for themselves before 1933. Significantly, 
great successes resulted from combining these old, proven organizations and carefully 
selected officials from them with Hitler's new system. But undoubtedly this harmon- 
ious phase would have been only transitional. After a generation at most, the old 
leadership would have been replaced by a new one trained in Adolf Hitler Schools 
and Ordensburgen [Order Castles, special training schools for Nazi leaders] according 
to the new educational principles. Even in party circles the products of such schools 
were occasionally regarded as too ruthless and arrogant. 


"Would you come to Berlin? There is certainly work for you here. When 
can you come?" he asked. I had the oil changed in our small BMW sports 
car, packed a suitcase, and we drove all night to Berlin. On little sleep, 
I called on Hanke at headquarters in the morning. "You're to drive over 
with the Doctor right away. He wants to have a look at his new Ministry." 

The result was that I made a ceremonial entrance along with Goeb- 
bels into the handsome building on Wilhelmsplatz, the work of the well- 
known nineteenth-century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. A few 
hundred people who were waiting there for something, perhaps for Hitler, 
waved to the new Minister of Propaganda. I felt— and not only here— that 
new life had been infused into Berlin. After the long crisis people seemed 
more vigorous and hopeful. Everyone knew that this time more than 
another of the usual cabinet shifts was involved. Everyone seemed to 
sense that an hour of decision had arrived. Groups of people stood around 
in the streets. Strangers exchanged commonplaces, laughed with one 
another, or expressed approval of the political events— while somewhere, 
unnoticed, the party machinery was relentlessly settling accounts with 
the opponents of years of political struggles, and hundreds of thousands 
of people were trembling because of their descent, their religion, or their 

After inspecting the Ministry, Goebbels commissioned me to rebuild 
it and to furnish various important rooms, such as his office and the 
meeting halls. He gave me a formal assignment to begin at once, without 
waiting for an estimate of costs and without troubling to find out whether 
funds were available. That was, as subsequently developed, rather auto- 
cratic, for no appropriations had yet been made for the newly created 
Propaganda Ministry, let alone for these renovations. I tried to carry out 
my assignment with due deference for Schinkers interior. But Goebbels 
thought what I had done insufficiently impressive. After some months he 
commissioned the Vereinigte Werkstatten (United Workshops) in Munich 
to redo the rooms in "ocean-liner style." 

Hanke had secured the influential post of "Minister's Secretary" in 
the Ministry and ruled over the new minister s anterooms with great 
skill. I happened to see a sketch on his desk of the decorations for the 
night rally that was to be held at Tempelhof Field on May 1. The designs 
outraged both my revolutionary and my architectural feelings. "Those look 
like the decorations for a rifle club meet," I exclaimed. Hanke replied: 'If 
you can do better, go to it." 

That same night I sketched a large platform and behind it three 
mighty banners, each of them taller than a ten-story building, stretched 
between wooden struts: two of the banners would be black- white-Ted 
with the swastika banner between them. (A rather risky idea, for in a 
strong wind those banners would act like sails.) They were to be illumi- 
nated by powerful searchlights. The sketch was accepted immediately, 
and once more I had moved a step ahead. 

27 ) Junction 

Full of pride, I showed my drawings to Tessenow. But he remained 
fixed in his ideal of solid craftsmanship. "Do you think you have created 
something? It's showy, that's all.** But Hitler, as Hanke told me, was 
enthusiastic about the arrangement— although Goebbels claimed the idea 
for himself. 

A few weeks later Goebbels moved into the official residence of the 
Minister of Nutrition. He took possession of it more or less by force, for 
Hugenberg insisted that it ought to remain at his disposal, the portfolio 
of Minister of Nutrition being then assigned to his German Nationalist 
Party. But this dispute soon ended, for Hugenberg left the cabinet on 
June 26. 

I was given the assignment to redo the minister's house and also to 
add a large hall. Somewhat recklessly I promised to have house and annex 
ready within two months. Hitler did not believe it would be possible to 
keep this deadline, and Goebbels, in order to spur me on, told me of his 
doubts. Day and night I kept three shifts at work. I took care that various 
aspects of the construction were synchronized down to the smallest detail, 
and in the last few days I set a large drying apparatus to work. The 
building was finally handed over, furnished, punctually on the promised 

To decorate the Goebbels house I borrowed a few watercolors by 
Nolde from Eberhard Hanfstaengl, the director of the Berlin National 
Gallery. Goebbels and his wife were delighted with the paintings— until 
Hitler came to inspect and expressed his severe disapproval. Then the 
Minister summoned me immediately: "The pictures have to go at once; 
they're simply impossible!" 

During those early months after the taking of power, a few, at least, 
of the schools of modern painting, which in 1937 were to be branded as 
"degenerate" along with the rest, still had a fighting chance. For Hans 
Weidemann, an old party member from Essen who wore the gold party 
badge, headed the Art Section in the Propaganda Ministry. Knowing 
nothing about this episode with Nolde's watercolors, he assembled an 
exhibition of pictures more or less of the Nolde-Munch school and recom- 
mended them to the Minister as samples of revolutionary, nationalist art. 
Goebbels, having learned better, had the compromising paintings removed 
at once. When Weidemann refused to go along with this total repudiation 
of modernity, he was reassigned to some lesser job within the Ministry. 
At the time this conjunction of power and servility on Goebbels's part 
struck me as weird. There was something fantastic about the absolute 
authority Hitler could assert over his closest associates of many years, 
even in matters of taste. Goebbels had simply groveled before Hitler. We 
were all in the same boat. I too, though altogether at home in modern art, 
tacitly accepted Hitler's pronouncement. 

No sooner had I finished the assignment for Goebbels than I was 
summoned to Nuremberg. That was in July 1933. Preparations were being 


made there for the first Party Rally of what was now the government 
party. The victorious spirit of the party was to be expressed even in the 
architecture of the background, but the local architect had been unable 
to come up with satisfactory suggestions. I was taken to Nuremberg by 
plane and there made my sketches. They were not exactly overflowing 
with fresh ideas, for in fact they resembled the design for May 1. Instead 
of my great banners I provided a gigantic eagle, over a hundred feet in 
wingspread, to crown the Zeppelin Field. I spiked it to a timber frame- 
work like a butterfly in a collection. 

The Nuremberg organization leader did not dare to decide on this 
matter by himself, and therefore sent me to headquarters in Munich. I 
had a letter of introduction with me, since I was still completely unknown 
outside of Berlin. It seemed that headquarters took architecture, or rather 
festival decor, with extraordinary seriousness. A few minutes after my 
arrival I stood in Rudolf Hess's luxuriously appointed office, my folder of 
drawings in my hand. He did not give me a chance to speak. "Only the 
Fuehrer himself can decide this sort of thing." He made a brief telephone 
call and then said: "The Fuehrer is in his apartment. Ill have you driven 
over there." For the first time I had an intimation of what the magic 
word "architecture" meant under Hitler. 

We stopped at an apartment house in the vicinity of the Prinzre- 
genten Theater. Two flights up I was admitted to an anteroom contain- 
ing mementos or presents of low quality. The furniture, too, testified to 
poor taste. An adjutant came in, opened a door, said casually, "Go in," 
and I stood before Hitler, the mighty Chancellor of the Reich. On a table 
in front of him lay a pistol that had been taken apart; he seemed to have 
been cleaning it. "Put the drawings here," he said curtly. Without looking 
at me, he pushed the parts of the pistol aside and examined my sketches 
with interest but without a word. "Agreed." No more. Since he turned 
to his pistol again, I left the room in some confusion. 

There was astonishment in Nuremberg when I reported that I had 
received the approval from Hitler in person. Had the organizers there 
known how spellbound Hitler was by any drawing, a large delegation 
would have gone to Munich and I would at best have been allowed to 
stand at the very back of the group. But in those days few people were 
acquainted with Hitler's hobby. 

In the autumn of 1933 Hitler commissioned his Munich architect, 
Paul Ludwig Troost, who had designed the fittings for the ocean liner 
Europa and rebuilt the Brown House, to completely redo and refurnish 
the Chancellor s residence in Berlin. The job was to be completed as 
quickly as possible. Troost's building supervisor came from Munich and 
was thus not familiar with Berlin construction firms and practices. Hitler 
then recollected that a young architect had finished an annex for Goebbels 

29 ) Junction 

in a remarkably brief time. He assigned me as an aide to the Munich 
supervisor; I was to choose the firms, to guide him through the mazes of 
the Berlin construction market, and to intervene wherever needed in the 
interests of speed. 

This collaboration began with a careful inspection of the Chancel- 
lor's residence by Hitler, his building supervisor, and myself. In the spring 
of 1939, six years later, in an article on the previous condition of the 
place, Hitler wrote: 

After the 1918 Revolution the building gradually began to decay. 
Large parts of the roof timbers were rotted and the attics completely dilapi- 
dated. . . . Since my predecessors in general could count upon a term of 
office of only three to five months, they saw no reason to remove the filth 
of those who had occupied the house before them nor to see to it that 
those who came after would have better conditions than they themselves. 
They had no prestige to maintain toward foreign countries since these in 
any case took little notice of them. As a result the building was in a state of 
utter neglect. Ceilings and floors were moldy, wallpaper and floors rotting, 
the whole place filled with an almost unbearable smell. 1 

That was certainly exaggerated. Still, the condition of this residence 
was almost incredible. The kitchen had little light and was equipped 
with long-outmoded stoves. There was only one bathroom for all the in- 
habitants, and its fixtures dated from the turn of the century. There were 
also innumerable examples of bad taste: doors painted to imitate natural 
wood and marble urns for flowers which were actually only marbleized 
sheet-metal basins. Hitler exclaimed triumphantly: "Here you see the 
whole corruption of the old Republic. One can't even show the Chancel- 
lor's residence to a foreigner. I would be embarrassed to receive even a 
single visitor here." 

During this thorough tour, which lasted perhaps three hours, we 
also went into the attic. The janitor explained: "And this is the door that 
leads to the next building." 

"What do you mean?" 

"There's a passage running through the attics of all the ministries as 
far as the Hotel Adlon." 


"During the riots at the beginning of the Weimar Republic it turned 
out that the rioters could besiege the residence and cut the Chancellor 
off from the outside world. The passage was created so that in an emer- 
gency he could clear out." 

Hitler had the door opened, and sure enough, we could walk into 
the adjacent Foreign Office. "Have the door walled up," he said. "We 
don t need anything like that." 


After the repairs had begun, Hitler came to the site at noon almost 
every day, followed by an adjutant. He studied the progress that had 
been made and took pleasure in the rooms as they came into being. Soon 
the band of construction workers were greeting him in a friendly and 
easy way. In spite of the two SS men in civilian dress who stood unob- 
trusively in the background, these scenes had an idyllic air. You could 
see from Hitler s behavior that he felt "at home" amid construction. Yet 
he avoided any cheap popularity-chasing. 

The supervisor and I accompanied him on these tours. In a terse but 
not unfriendly manner, he addressed his questions to us: "When is this 
room to be plastered? . . . When are the windows coming? . . . Have the 
detail drawings arrived from Munich? Not yet? Ill ask the Professor [that 
was the way he usually referred to Troost] about them myself." Another 
room was inspected: "Ah, this has already been plastered. That hadn't 
been done yesterday. Why, this ceiling molding is very handsome. The 
Professor does that sort of thing wonderfully. . . . When do you think 
you'll be finished? I'm in a great hurry. All I have now is the small state 
secretary's apartment on the top floor. I can't invite anyone there. It's 
ridiculous, how penny-pinching the Republic was. Have you seen the 
entrance? And the elevator? Any department store has a better one." The 
elevator in fact would get stuck from time to time and was rated for only 
three persons. 

That was the tone Hitler took. It is easy to imagine how this natural- 
ness of his impressed me— after all, he was not only the Chancellor but 
also the man who was beginning to revive everything in Germany, who 
was providing work for the unemployed and launching vast economic 
programs. Only much later, and on the basis of tiny clues, did I begin to 
perceive that a good measure of propagandist calculation underlay all this 

I had already accompanied him some twenty or thirty times when 
he suddenly invited me, in the course of a tour: "Will you come to dinner 
with me today?" Naturally this unexpected gesture made me happy-all 
the more so since I had never expected it, because of his impersonal 

I was used to clambering around building sites, but that particular 
day I unluckily had a hod of plaster fall on me from a scaffolding. I must 
have looked at my stained jacket with a rueful expression, for Hitler com- 
mented: "Just come along; we'll fix that upstairs." 

In his apartment the guests were already waiting, among them 
Goebbels, who looked quite surprised to see me appear in this circle. 
Hitler took me into his private rooms. His valet was sent off for Hitler s 
own dark-blue jacket. "There, wear that for the while." And so I entered 
the dining room behind Hitler and sat at his side, favored above all the 
other guests. Evidently he had taken a liking to me. Goebbels noticed 

31 ) Junction 

something that had entirely escaped me in my excitement. 'Why, you re 
wearing the Fuehrers badge.* That isn't your jacket, then?" Hitler spared 
me the reply: "No, it's mine." 

On this occasion Hitler for the first time addressed a few personal 
questions to me. Only now did he discover that I had designed the May 1 
decorations. "I see, and you did the ones in Nuremberg too? There was 
an architect who came to see me with the plans! Right, that was you! . . . 
I never would have thought you could have got Goebbels's building fin- 
ished by the deadline." He did not ask about my membership in the party. 
In the case of artists, it seemed to me, he did not care one way or the other. 
Instead of political questions, he wanted to find out as much as possible 
about my origins, my career as an architect, and my father s and grand- 
father s buildings. 

Years later Hitler referred to this invitation: 

You attracted my notice during our rounds. I was looking for an archi- 
tect to whom I could entrust my building plans. I wanted someone young; 
for as you know these plans extend far into the future. I need someone who 
will be able to continue after my death with the authority I have conferred 
on him. I saw you as that man. 

After years of frustrated efforts I was wild to accomplish things— 
and twenty-eight years old. For the commission to do a great building, I 
would have sold my soul like Faust. Now I had found my Mephistopheles. 
He seemed no less engaging than Goethe's. 

* Hitler was the only party member to wear a gold "badge of sovereignty"— an 
eagle with a swastika in its talons. Everyone else wore the round party badge. But 
Hitler's jacket did not differ from ordinary civilian jackets. 


My Catalyst 


to develop new talents and rally fresh energy. Now I had found my 
catalyst; I could not have encountered a more effective one. At an ever 
quickening pace and with ever greater urgency, all my powers were 
summoned forth. 

In responding to this challenge I gave up the real center of my life: 
my family. Completely under the sway of Hitler, I was henceforth 
possessed by my work. Nothing else mattered. Hitler knew how to drive 
his associates to the greatest efforts. "The higher he aims, the more a man 
grows," he would say. 

During the twenty years I spent in Spandau prison I often asked my- 
self what I would have done if I had recognized Hitlers real face and 
the true nature of the regime he had established. The answer was banal 
and dispiriting: My position as Hitlers architect had soon become indis- 
pensable to me. Not yet thirty, I saw before me the most exciting pros- 
pects an architect can dream of. 

Moreover, the intensity with which I went at my work repressed 
problems that I ought to have faced. A good many perplexities were 
smothered by the daily rush. In writing these memoirs I became increas- 
ingly astonished to realize that before 1944 I so rarely— in fact almost 
never— found the time to reflect about myself or my own activities, that I 
never gave my own existence a thought. Today, in retrospect, I often have 


33 ) My Catalyst 

the feeling that something swooped me up off the ground at the time, 
wrenched me from all my roots, and beamed a host of alien forces upon 

In retrospect, what perhaps troubles me most is that my occasional 
spells of uneasiness during this period were concerned mainly with the 
direction I was taking as an architect, with my growing estrangement 
from Tessenow's doctrines. On the other hand I must have had the feeling 
that it was no affair of mine when I heard the people around me de- 
claring an open season on Jews, Freemasons, Social Democrats, or Jeho- 
vah's Witnesses. I thought I was not implicated if I myself did not take 

The ordinary party member was being taught that grand policy was 
much too complex for him to judge it. Consequently, one felt one was 
being represented, never called upon to take personal responsibility. The 
whole structure of the system was aimed at preventing conflicts of con- 
science from even arising. The result was the total sterility of all conver- 
sations and discussions among these like-minded persons. It was boring 
for people to confirm one another in their uniform opinions. 

Worse still was the restriction of responsibility to one's own field. 
That was explicitly demanded. Everyone kept to his own group— of archi- 
tects, physicians, jurists, technicians, soldiers, or farmers. The professional 
organizations to which everyone had to belong were called chambers 
(Physicians' Chamber, Art Chamber), and this term aptly described the 
way people were immured in isolated, closed-off areas of life. The longer 
Hitler's system lasted, the more people's minds moved within such iso- 
lated chambers. If this arrangement had gone on for a number of genera- 
tions, it alone would have caused the whole system to wither, I think, 
for we would have arrived at a kind of caste society. The disparity be- 
tween this and the Volksgemeinschaft (community of the people) pro- 
claimed in 1933 always astonished me. For this had the effect of stamping 
out the promised integration, or at any rate of greatly hindering it. What 
eventually developed was a society of totally isolated individuals. For 
although it may sound strange today, for us it was no empty slogan that 
"the Fuehrer proposes and disposes" for all. 

We had been rendered susceptible to such ideas from our youth on. 
We had derived our principles from the Obrigkeitsstaat, the authoritarian 
though not totalitarian state of Imperial Germany. Moreover, we had 
learned those principles in wartime, when the state's authoritarian charac- 
ter had been further intensified. Perhaps the background had prepared 
us like soldiers for the kind of thinking we encountered once again in 
Hitler's system. Tight public order was in our blood; the liberalism of the 
Weimar Republic seemed to us by comparison lax, dubious, and in no 
way desirable. 


In order to be available to my client at any time, I had rented a 
painter's studio on Behrenstrasse, a few hundred yards from the Chan- 
cellery, for my office. My assistants, all of them young, worked from 
morning until late at night without regard for their private lives. For 
lunch we generally had a few sandwiches. It would be nearly ten o'clock 
at night before we would quit and, exhausted, end our working day with 
a bite at the nearby Pfalzer Weinstube-where we would once more dis- 
cuss the day's labors. 

Major assignments did not come our way at once. I continued to 
receive a few occasional rush jobs from Hitler, who apparently thought 
that what I was chiefly good for was the speedy completion of commis- 
sions. The previous Chancellor's office on the second floor of the office 
building had three windows overlooking Wilhelmsplatz. During those 
early months of 1933 a crowd almost invariably gathered there and 
chanted their demand to see the Fuehrer. As a result, it had become im- 
possible for Hitler to work in the room, and he did not like it anyhow. 
"Much too small. Six hundred and fifty square feet— it might do for one of 
my assistants. Where would I sit with a state visitor? In this little corner 
here? And this desk is just about the right size for my office manager." 

Hitler had me refurbish a hall overlooking the garden as his new pri- 
vate office. For five years he contented himself with this room, although 
he considered it only temporary. But even after he moved into his office 
in the new Chancellery built in 1938, he soon came to feel that this too 
was unsatisfactory. By 1950, according to his instructions and my plans, 
a final new Chancellery was to be built. It was to include a palatial office 
for Hitler and his successors in coming centuries, which would measure 
ten thousand square feet— sixteen times larger than the original Chancel- 
lor's office. But after talking the matter over with Hitler, I tucked in a 
private office to supplement this vast hall; it again measured about six 
hundred square feet. 

As things worked out, the old office was not to be used. For 
Hitler wanted to be able to show himself to the crowd and therefore had 
me build a new "historic balcony" in great haste. "The window was really 
too inconvenient," Hitler remarked to me with satisfaction. "I could not 
be seen from all sides. After all, I could not very well lean out." But the 
architect of the first reconstruction of the Chancellery, Professor Eduard 
Jobst Siedler of the Berlin Institute of Technology, made a fuss about our 
doing violence to his work, and Lammers, chief of the Reich Chancery, 
agreed that our addition would constitute an infringement on an artist's 
copyright. Hitler scornfully dismissed these objections: "Siedler has 
spoiled the whole of Wilhelmsplatz. Why, that building looks like the 
headquarters of a soap company, not the center of the Reich. What does 
he think? That 111 let him build the balcony too?" But he propitiated the 
professor with another commission. 

A few months later I was told to build a barracks camp for the 

35 ) My Catalyst 

workmen of the autobahn, construction of which had just begun. Hitler 
was displeased with the kind of quarters hitherto provided and instructed 
me to develop a model which could be used for all such camps: with 
decent kitchens, washrooms, and showers, with a lounge and cabins 
containing only two beds each. These quarters were indeed a great im- 
provement over the building site barracks commonly used up to that 
time. Hitler took an interest in these model buildings and asked me to 
give him a report on their effect on the workers. This was just the attitude 
I had imagined the National Socialist leader would have. 

Until the remodeling of his Chancellor's residence was done, Hitler 
stayed in the apartment of State Secretary Lammers, on the top floor 
of the office building. Here I frequently had lunch or dinner with him. 
Evenings he usually had some trusty companions about: Schreck, his 
chauffeur of many years; Sepp Dietrich, the commander of his SS body- 
guard; Dr. Otto Dietrich, the press chief; Bruckner and Schaub, his two 
adjutants; and Heinrich Hoffmann, his official photographer. Since the 
table held no more than ten persons, this group almost completely filled 
it. For the midday meal, on the other hand, Hitler s old Munich comrades 
foregathered, such as Amann, Schwarz, and Esser or Gauleiter WagnSr. 
Frequently, Werlin was present also; he was head of the Munich branch 
of Daimler-Benz and supplier of Hitlers personal cars. Cabinet ministers 
seemed seldom present; I also saw very little of Himmler, Roehm, or 
Streicher at these meals, but Goebbels and Goering were often there. 
Even then all regular officials of the Chancellery were excluded. Thus 
it was noticeable that even Lammers, although the apartment was his, 
was never invited— undoubtedly with good reason. 

For in this circle Hitler often spoke his mind on the day's develop- 
ments. He used these sociable hours to work off the nervous strain of his 
office. He liked to describe the way he had broken the grip of the bureauc- 
racy, which threatened to strangle him in his capacity as Reich Chancellor: 

In the first few weeks every petty matter was brought to me for deci- 
sion. Every day I found heaps of files on my desk, and however much I 
worked there were always as many again. Finally, I put an end to that 
nonsense. If I had gone on that way, I would never have accomplished 
anything, simply because that stuff left me no time for thinking. When I 
refused to see the files they told me that important decisions would be 
held up. But I decided that I had to clear the decks so I could give my 
mind to the important things. That way I governed the course of develop- 
ment instead of being governed by the officials. 

Sometimes he talked about his drivers: 

Schreck was the best driver you can imagine, and our supercharger 
is good for over a hundred. We always drove very fast. But in recent years 


IVe told Schreck not to drive over fifty. How terrible if something had 
happened to me. What fun we had teasing the big American cars. We 
kept right behind them until they tried to lose us. Those Americans are 
junk compared to a Mercedes. Their motor couldn't take it; after a while 
it would overheat, and they'd have to pull over to the side of the road, 
looking glum. Served them right! 

Every evening a crude movie projector was set up to show the news- 
reel and one or two movies. In the early days the servants were extremely 
inept at handling the apparatus. Frequently, the picture was upside down 
or the film strip broke. In those days Hitler took such accidents with more 
good humor than his adjutants, who were fond of using the power they 
derived from their chief to bawl out underlings. 

The choice of films was a matter Hitler discussed with Goebbels. 
Usually they were the same ones being shown in the Berlin movie houses 
at the time. Hitler preferred light entertainment, love, and society films. 
All the films with Emil Jannings and Heinz Ruhmann, with Henny Porten, 
Lil Dagover, Olga Tschechowa, Zarah Leander, or Jenny Jugo had to be 
procured as quickly as possible. Revues with lots of leg display were sure 
to please him. Frequently we saw foreign films, including those that were 
withheld from the German public. Sports and mountaineering films were 
shown very rarely, animal and landscape movies and travelogues never. 
Hitler also had no feeling for the comedies of the kind I loved at the 
time, those featuring Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. German movie 
production was not nearly sufficient to fill the quota of two new movies 
every day. Many were therefore shown twice or even more often— in- 
terestingly enough, never those with tragic plots. The ones we saw more 
than once were frequently spectaculars or movies with his favorite 
actors. His preferences, and the habit of seeing one or two films every 
evening, continued until the beginning of the war. 

At one of these dinners, in the winter of 1933, I happened to be 
seated beside Goering. "Is Speer doing your residence, my Fuehrer? Is 
he your architect?" I wasn't, but Hitler said I was. "Then permit me to 
have him remodel my house too." Hitler gave his consent, and Goering, 
scarcely inquiring what I thought of the proposal, put me into his big 
open limousine after the meal was over and dragged me off to his res- 
idence like a piece of booty. He had picked out for himself the former 
official residence of the Prussian Minister of Commerce, a palace that the 
Prussian state had built with great lavishness before 1914. It was situated 
in one of the gardens behind Leipziger Platz. 

Only a few months before, this residence had been expensively re- 
done according to Goering's own instructions, with Prussian state funds. 
Hitler had come to see it and commented deprecatingly: "Dark! How 
can anyone live in such darkness! Compare this with my professor s work. 

37 ) My Catalyst 

Everything bright, clear, and simple!" I did in fact find the place a 
romantically tangled warren of small rooms gloomy with stained-glass 
windows and heavy velvet hangings, cluttered with massive Renaissance 
furniture. There was a kind of chapel presided over by the swastika, and 
the new symbol had also been reiterated on ceilings, walls, and floors 
throughout the house. There was the feeling that something terribly 
solemn and tragic would always be going on in this place. 

It was characteristic of the system— and probably of all authoritarian 
forms of society-that Hitlers criticism and example produced an instant 
change in Goering. For he immediately repudiated the decorative scheme 
he had just completed, although he probably felt fairly comfortable in 
it, since it rather corresponded to his disposition. "Don't look at this," he 
said to me. "I cant stand it myself. Do it any way you like. I'm giving 
you a free hand; only it must turn out like the Fuehrers place." That 
was a fine assignment. Money, as was always the case with Goering, 
was no object. And so walls were ripped out, in order to turn the many 
rooms on the ground floor into four large rooms. The largest of these, 
his study, measured almost fifteen hundred square feet, thus approach- 
ing the size of Hitler s. An annex was added, mostly of glass framed in 
bronze. Bronze was in short supply; it was treated as a scarce metal 
and there were high penalties for using it for nonessential purposes, 
but that did not bother Goering in the least. He was rapturous every 
time he made an inspection; he beamed like a child on its birthday, 
rubbed his hands, and laughed. 

Goering's furniture suited his bulk. An old Renaissance desk was of 
enormous proportions, as was the desk chair whose back rose far above 
his head; it had probably been a prince's throne. On the desk he had 
two silver candelabra with enormous parchment shades to illuminate 
an oversized photograph of Hitler; the original, which Hitler had given 
him, had not seemed impressive enough. He had had it tremendously en- 
larged, and every visitor wondered at this special honor that Hitler had 
seemingly conferred on him, since it was well known in party and gov- 
ernment circles that Hitler presented his portrait to his paladins always 
in the same size, inside a silver frame specially designed for it by Frau 

There was an immense painting in the hall which could be drawn 
up to the ceiling in order to expose openings to a projection room 
behind the wall. The painting struck me as familiar. In fact, as I sub- 
sequently learned, Goering had in his unabashed fashion simply ordered 
Iris" director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum to deliver the famous 
Rubens, Diana at the Stag Hunt, considered one of the museum's prize 
possessions, to his residence. 

During the reconstruction, Goering lived in the mansion of the 
President of the Reichstag, opposite the Reichstag itself, an early 


twentieth-century building with strong elements of nouveau riche ro- 
coco. Here our discussions about his future residence took place. Fre- 
quently present at these talks was one of the directors of the Vereinigte 
Werkstatten, Herr Paepke, a gray-haired elderly gentleman full of best 
intentions to please Goering, but cowed by the brusque manner Goering 
used with subordinates. 

One day we were sitting with Goering in a room whose walls were 
done in the Wilhelmine neorococo style, adorned from top to bottom 
with roses in bas-relief— quintessential atrociousness. Even Goering 
knew that when he asked: "How do you like this decoration, Herr 
Direktor? Not bad, is it?" Instead of saying, "It's ghastly," the old 
gentleman became unsure of himself. He did not want to disagree with 
his prominent employer and customer and answered evasively. Goering 
immediately scented an opportunity for a joke and winked at me: 
"But, Herr Direktor, don't you think it's beautiful? I mean to have you 
decorate all my rooms this way. We were talking about just that, 
weren't we, Herr Speer?" "Yes, of course, the drawings are already 
being made." "There you are, Herr Direktor. You see, this is the style 
were going to follow. I'm sure you like it." The director writhed; his 
artistic conscience brought beads of sweat to his forehead and his 
goatee quivered with distress. Goering had taken it into his head to 
make the old man forswear himself. "Now look at this wall carefully. 
See how wonderfully those roses twine their way up. Like being in a 
rose arbor out in the open. And you mean to say you can't feel enthu- 
siastic about this sort of thing?" "Oh yes, yes," the desperate man con- 
curred. "But you should be enthusiastic about such a work of art— a 
well-known connoisseur like you. Tell me, don't you think it's beautiful?" 
The game went on for a long time until the director gave in and voiced 
the praise Goering demanded. 

"They're all like that!" Goering afterward said contemptuously. 
And it was true enough: They were all like that, Goering included. For 
at meals he now never tired of telling Hitler how bright and expansive 
his home was now, "just like yours, my Fuehrer." 

If Hitler had had roses climbing the walls of his room, Goering 
would have insisted on roses. 

By the winter of 1933, only a few months after that decisive invita- 
tion to dinner, I had been taken into the circle of Hitler's intimates. 
There were very few persons besides myself who had been so favored. 
Hitler had undoubtedly taken a special liking to me, although I was 
by nature reticent and not very talkative. I have often asked myself 
whether he was projecting upon me his unfulfilled youthful dream of 
being a great architect. But given the fact that Hitler so often acted 
in a purely intuitive way, why he took to me so warmly remains a 

39 ) My Catalyst 

I was still a long way from my later neoclassical manner. By chance 
some plans which I drew up in the autumn of 1933 have been preserved. 
They were for a prize competition for a party school in Munich-Griin- 
wald. All German architects were invited to participate. My design 
already relied heavily on melodrama and a dominant axis, but I was 
still using the austere vocabulary I had learned from Tessenow. 

Hitler, along with Troost and myself, looked at the entries before 
the judging. The sketches were unsigned, as is mandatory in such com- 
petitions. Of course I did not win. After the verdict, when the incognitos 
were lifted, Troost in a studio conversation praised my sketch. And to 
my astonishment Hitler remembered it in detail, although he had looked 
at my plans for only a few seconds among a hundred others. He silently 
ignored Troost's praise; probably in the course of it he realized that I 
was still far from being an architect after his own heart. 

Hitler went to Munich every two or three weeks. More and more 
often, he took me along on these trips. In the train he would usually 
talk animatedly about which drawings "the professor" would probably 
have ready. "I imagine he's redone the ground-floor plan of the House 
of Art. There were some improvements needed there. ... I wonder 
whether the details for the dining room have been drafted yet? And then 
perhaps well be able to see the sketches for Wackerle's sculptures/' 

On arrival he usually went directly from the railroad station to Pro- 
fessor Troost's studio. It was situated in a battered backyard off 
Theresienstrasse, fairly near the Institute of Technology. We would go 
up two flights of a dreary stairway that had not been painted for years. 
Troost, conscious of his standing, never came to meet Hitler on the 
stairs, nor ever accompanied him downstairs when he left. In the 
anteroom, Hitler would greet him: "I can't wait, Herr Professor. Is there 
anything new— let's see it!" And we would plunge right in— Hitler and I 
would stand in the studio itself while Troost, composed and quiet as 
always, spread out his plans and the sketches of his ideas. But Hitler's 
foremost architect had no better luck than I later did; Hitler seldom 
showed his enthusiasm. 

Afterward Troost's wife, Frau Professor, would show samples of 
the textiles and wall colors to be used for the Munich Fuehrer Building. 
These were subtle and restrained, actually too understated for Hitler's 
taste, which inclined toward the gaudy. But he liked what he saw. The 
balanced bourgeois atmosphere which was then the fashion in wealthy 
society had about it a muted luxury that obviously appealed to him. 
Two or more hours would pass; then Hitler would take his leave, tersely 
but very cordially, to go to his own Munich apartment. He would throw 
a few quick words to me: "But come for lunch in the Osteria." 

At the usual time, around half past two, I went to the Osteria 
Bavaria, a small artists' restaurant which rose to unexpected fame when 


it became Hitler's regular restaurant. In a place like this, one could 
more easily imagine a table of artists gathered around Lenbach or 
Stuck, with long hair and huge beards, than Hitler with his neatly 
dressed or uniformed retinue. But he felt at ease in the Osteria; as 
a "frustrated artist" he obviously liked the atmosphere he had once 
sought to attain to, and now had finally both lost and surpassed. 

Quite often the select group of guests had to wait for hours for 
Hitler. There would be an adjutant, also Bavarian Gauleiter Wagner if 
by this time he had slept off last night's drinking bout, and of course 
Hitler s constant companion and court photographer, Hoffmann, who 
by this time was quite often slightly tipsy. Very often the likable Miss 
Unity Mitford was present, and sometimes, though rarely, a painter or a 
sculptor. Then there would be Dr. Dietrich, the Reich press chief, and 
invariably Martin Bormann, Rudolf Hess's secretary, who seemed utterly 
inconspicuous. On the street several hundred people would be waiting, 
for our presence was indication enough that he would be coming. 

Shouts of rejoicing outside. Hitler headed toward our regular 
corner, which was shielded on one side by a low partition. In good 
weather we sat in the small courtyard where there was a hint of an 
arbor. Hitler gave the owner and the two waitresses a jovial greeting: 
"What's good today? Ravioli? If only you didn't make it so delicious. 
It's too tempting!" Hitler snapped his fingers: "Everything would be 
perfect in your place, Herr Deutelmoser, if I did not have to think of my 
waistline. You forget that the Fuehrer cannot eat whatever he would like 
to." Then he would study the menu for a long time and order ravioli. 

Everyone ordered whatever he liked: cutlets, goulash, Hungarian 
wine from the cask. In spite of Hitler's occasional jokes about "carrion 
eaters" and "wine drinkers," everyone ate and drank with zest. In this 
circle there was a sense of privacy. One tacit agreement prevailed: No 
one must mention politics. The sole exception was Lady Mitford, who 
even in the later years of international tension persistently spoke up for 
her country and often actually pleaded with Hitler to make a deal with 
England. In spite of Hitler's discouraging reserve, she did not abandon 
her efforts through all those years. Then, in September 1939, on the day 
of England's declaration of war, she tried to shoot herself with a small 
pistol in Munich's Englischer Garten. Hitler had the best specialists in 
Munich care for her, and as soon as she could travel sent her home to 
England by a special railroad car through Switzerland. 

The principal topic during these meals was, regularly, the morning 
visit to Professor Troost. Hitler would be full of praise for what he 
had seen; he effortlessly remembered all the details. His relationship 
to Troost was somewhat that of a pupil to his teacher; it reminded me 
of my own uncritical admiration of Tessenow. 

I found this trait very engaging. I was amazed to see that this 

41 ) My Catalyst 

man, although worshiped by the people around him, was still capable 
of a kind of reverence. Hitler, who felt himself to be an architect, re- 
spected the superiority of the professional in this field. He would never 
have done that in politics. 

He talked frankly about how the Bruckmanns, a highly cultivated 
publishing family of Munich, had introduced him to Troost. It was, he 
said, "as if scales fell from my eyes" when he saw Troost's work. "I 
could no longer bear the things I had drawn up to then. What a piece 
of good luck that I met this man!" One could only assent; it is ghastly 
to think what his architectural taste would have been like without 
Troost's influence. He once showed me his sketchbook of the early 
twenties. I saw attempts at public buildings in the neobaroque style of 
Vienna's Ringstrasse— products of the eighteen-nineties. Curiously 
enough, such architectural sketches often shared the page with sketches 
of weapons and warships. 

In comparison to that sort of thing, Troost's architecture was 
actually spare. Consequently, his influence upon Hitler remained mar- 
ginal. Up to the end Hitler lauded the architects and the buildings which 
had served him as models for his early sketches. Among these was the 
Paris Opera (built 1861-74) by Charles Gamier: "The stairwell is the 
most beautiful in the world. When the ladies stroll down in their costly 
gowns and uniformed men form lanes— Herr Speer, we must build 
something like that too!" He raved about the Vienna Opera: "The most 
magnificent opera house in the world, with marvelous acoustics. When 
as a young man I sat up there in the fourth gallery. . . ." Hitler had a 
story to tell about van der Null, one of the two architects of this build- 
ing: "He thought the opera house was a failure. You know, he was in 
such despair that on the day before the opening he put a bullet through 
his head. At the dedication it turned out to be his greatest success; 
everyone praised the architect." Such remarks quite often led him to ob- 
servations about difficult situations in which he himself had been 
involved and in which some fortunate turn of events had again and 
again saved him. The lesson was: You must never give up. 

He was especially fond of the numerous theaters built by Hermann 
Helmer (1849-1919) and Ferdinand Fellner (1847-1916), who had pro- 
vided both Austria-Hungary and Germany at the end of the nineteenth 
century with many late-baroque theaters, all in the same pattern. He 
knew where all their buildings were and later had the neglected 
theater in Augsburg renovated. 

But he also appreciated the stricter architects of the nineteenth 
century such as Gottfried Semper (1803-79), w ^o built the Opera 
House and the Picture Gallery in Dresden and the Hofburg and the 
court museums in Vienna, as well as Theophil Hansen (1803-83), who 
had designed several impressive classical buildings in Athens and 


Vienna. As soon as the German troops took Brussels in 1940, I was 
dispatched there to look at the huge Palace of Justice by Poelaert 
(1817-79), which Hitler raved about, although he knew it only from 
its plans (which was also true of the Paris Opera). After my return 
he had me give him a detailed description of the building. 

Such were Hitlers architectural passions. But ultimately he was 
always drawn back to inflated neobaroque such as Kaiser Wilhelm II 
had also fostered, through his court architect Ihne. Fundamentally, it 
was decadent baroque, comparable to the style that accompanied the 
decline of the Roman Empire. Thus, in the realm of architecture, as in 
painting and sculpture, Hitler really remained arrested in the world of 
his youth: the world of 1880 to 1910, which stamped its imprint on his 
artistic taste as on his political and ideological conceptions. 

Contradictory impulses were typical of Hitler. Thus he would sing 
the praises of the Viennese examples that had impressed him in his 
youth, and in the same breath would declare: 

I first learned what architecture is from Troost. When I had some 
money, I bought one piece of furniture after the other from him. I looked 
at his buildings, at the appointments of the Europa, and always gave thanks 
to fate for appearing to me in the guise of Frau Bruckmann and leading 
this master to me. When the party had greater means, I commissioned him 
to remodel and furnish the Brown House. YouVe seen it. What trouble I 
had on account of it! Those philistines in the party thought it was a waste 
of money. And how much I learned from the Professor in the course of 
that remodeling! 

Paul Ludwig Troost was a Westphalian, extremely tall and spare, 
with a close-shaven head. Restrained in conversation, eschewing ges- 
tures, he belonged to a group of architects such as Peter Behrens, 
Joseph M. Olbrich, Bruno Paul, and Walter Gropius who before 1914 
led a reaction against the highly ornamented Jugendstil and advocated 
a lean approach, almost devoid of ornament, and a spartan tradi- 
tionalism with which they combined elements of modernity. Troost 
had occasionally won prizes in competitions, but before 1933 he was 
never able to advance into the leading group of German architects. 

There was no "Fuehrers style," for all that the party press ex- 
patiated on this subject. What was branded as the official architecture 
of the Reich was only the neoclassicism transmitted by Troost; it was 
multiplied, altered, exaggerated, and sometimes distorted to the point 
of ludicrousness. Hitler appreciated the permanent qualities of the 
classical style all the more because he thought he had found certain 
points of relationship between the Dorians and his own Germanic 
world. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to try to look within 

43 ) My Catalyst 

Hitlers mentality for some ideologically based architectural style. 
That would not have been in keeping with his pragmatic way of 

Undoubtedly Hitler had something in mind when he regularly 
took me along on those architectural consultations in Munich. He must 
have wanted me in my turn to become a disciple of Troost. I was eager 
to learn and actually did learn a good deal from Troost. The elaborate 
but restrained architecture of my second teacher decisively influ- 
enced me. 

The prolonged table talk in the Osteria was brought to an end: 
"The Professor told me that the stairwell in the Fuehrer House is 
being paneled today. I can hardly wait to see it. Bruckner, send for the 
car— well drive right over." And to me: "You'll come along?" 

He would hurry straight from the car to the stairwell in the 
Fuehrer House, inspect it from downstairs, from the gallery, from the 
stairs, then go upstairs again, full of enthusiasm. Finally he would 
look over the entire building. He would once again demonstrate his 
familiarity with every detail of the plans and sufficiently astonish 
everyone concerned with the building. Satisfied with the progress, 
satisfied with himself because he was the cause and prime mover of 
these buildings, he went to his next destination: The home of his 
photographer in Munich-Bogenhausen. 

In good weather coffee would be served in the Hoffmanns' little 
garden. Surrounded by the gardens of other villas, it was hardly more 
than two thousand feet square. Hitler tried to resist the cake, but 
finally consented, with many compliments to Frau Hoffmann, to have 
some put on his plate. If the sun were shining brightly the Fuehrer 
and Reich Chancellor might even take off his coat and lie down on the 
grass in shirtsleeves. At the Hoffmanns' he felt at home; once he sent 
for a volume of Ludwig Thoma and read a passage aloud. 

Hitler particularly looked forward to the paintings which the 
photographer had brought to his house for the Fuehrer to choose 
from. At first I was stunned at what Hoffmann showed Hitler and 
what met with his approval. Later I grew accustomed to Hitlers 
taste in art, though I myself still went on collecting early romantic 
landscapes by such painters as Rottmann, Fries, or Kobell. 

One of Hitler s as well as Hoffmann's favorite painters was Eduard 
Griitzner, whose pictures of tipsy monks and inebriated butlers seemed 
hardly the right sort of thing for a teetotaler like Hitler. But Hitler 
regarded these paintings solely from their "artistic' aspect: "What, 
that one is priced at only five thousand marks?" The painting's market 
value could not have been more than two thousand marks. "Do you 
know, Hoffmann, that's a steal! Look at these details. Griitzner is 


greatly underrated." The next work by this painter cost him con- 
siderably more. "It's simply that he hasn't been discovered yet. Rem- 
brandt also counted for nothing for many decades after his death. His 
pictures were practically given away. Believe me, this Griitzner will 
some day be worth as much as a Rembrandt. Rembrandt himself 
couldn't have painted that better." 

For all departments of art Hitler regarded the late nineteenth 
century as one of the greatest cultural epochs in human history. That 
it was not yet recognized as such, he said, was only because we were 
too close to it in time. But his appreciation stopped at Impressionism, 
whereas the naturalism of a Leibl or a Thoma suited his activistic 
approach to art. Makart ranked highest; he also thought highly of 
Spitzweg. In this case I could understand his feeling, although what 
he admired was not so much the bold and often impressionistic brush- 
work as the staunch middle-class genre quality, the affable humor 
with which Spitzweg gently mocked the small-town Munich of his 

Later, to the consternation of the photographer, it turned out 
that a forger had exploited this fondness for Spitzweg. Hitler began 
to be uneasy about which of his Spitzwegs were genuine, but quickly 
repressed these doubts and commented maliciously: "You know, some 
of the Spitzwegs that Hoffmann has hanging are fake. I can tell at a 
glance. But let's not take away his pleasure in them." He said that 
last with the Bavarian intonation he liked to fall into while in Munich. 

He frequently visited Carlton's Tearoom, a bogus luxurious place 
with reproduction furniture and fake crystal chandeliers. He liked it 
because the people there left him undisturbed, did not bother him with 
applause or requests for autographs, as was generally the case else- 
where in Munich. 

Frequently, I would receive a telephone call late at night from 
Hitler's apartment: 'The Fuehrer is driving over to the Cafe Heck 
and has asked that you come too." I would have to get out of bed 
and had no prospect of returning before two or three o'clock in the 

Occasionally Hitler would apologize. "I formed the habit of 
staying up late during our days of struggle. After rallies I would 
have to sit down with the old fighters, and besides my speeches 
usually stirred me up so much that I would not have been able to sleep 
before early morning." 

The Cafe Heck, in contrast to Carlton's Tearoom, was furnished 
with plain wooden chairs and iron tables. It was the old party cate 
where Hitler used to meet his comrades. But any such meetings stopped 
after 1933. The Munich group had shown him such devotion over so 
many years that I had expected him to have a group of close Munich 

45 ) My Catalyst 

friends; but there was nothing of the sort. On the contrary, Hitler 
tended to become sulky when one of the old comrades wanted to speak 
to him and almost always managed to refuse or delay such requests on 
all sorts of pretexts. No doubt the old party comrades did not always 
assume the tone of respectful distance that Hitler, for all the geniality 
he outwardly displayed, now thought proper. Frequently, they adopted 
an air of unseemly familiarity; what they supposed was their well- 
earned right to such intimacy no longer comported with the historical 
role Hitler by now attributed to himself. 

On extremely rare occasions he might still pay a visit to one or 
another of them. They had meanwhile acquired lordly mansions; most 
of them held important offices. Their one annual meeting was the 
anniversary of the putsch of November 9, 1923, which was celebrated 
in the Biirgerbraukeller. Surprisingly, Hitler did not at all look forward 
to these reunions; it was clear that he found it distasteful to have 
to be present. 

After 1933 there quickly formed various rival factions that held 
divergent views, spied on each other, and held each other in contempt. 
A mixture of scorn and dislike became the prevailing mood within the 
party. Each new dignitary rapidly gathered a circle of intimates 
around him. Thus Himmler associated almost exclusively with his SS 
following, from whom he could count on unqualified respect. Goering 
also had his band of uncritical admirers, consisting partly of members 
of his family, partly of his closest associates and adjutants. Goebbels 
felt at ease in the company of literary and movie people. Hess occu- 
pied himself with problems of homeopathic medicine, loved chamber 
music, and had screwy but interesting acquaintances. 

As an intellectual Goebbels looked down on the crude philistines 
of the leading group in Munich, who for their part made fun of the 
conceited academics literary ambitions. Goering considered neither 
the Munich philistines nor Goebbels sufficiently aristocratic for him, 
and therefore avoided all social relations with them; whereas Himmler, 
filled with the elitist missionary zeal of the SS (which for a time ex- 
pressed itself in a bias for the sons of princes and counts), felt far 
superior to all the others. Hitler, too, had his retinue, which went 
everywhere with him. Its membership, consisting of chauffeurs, the 
photographer, his pilot, and secretaries, remained always the same. 

Hitler held these divergent circles together politically. But after 
a year in power, neither Himmler nor Goering nor Hess appeared 
frequently enough at his dinner table or movie showings for there to 
be any semblance of a "society" of the new regime. When they did 
come their interest was so completely concentrated upon wooing 
Hitlers favor that no cross-connections to the other groups sprang up. 

To be sure, Hitler did not foster any social ties among the leaders. 


In fact, as his situation grew increasingly critical in later years, he 
watched any efforts at rapprochement with keen suspicion. Not until 
it was all over did the still surviving heads of these isolated miniature 
worlds meet all together in a Luxemburg hotel— and then only be- 
cause they had no choice in the matter, for they were all prisoners. 

During these stays in Munich, Hitler paid little attention to gov- 
ernment or party business, even less than in Berlin or at Obersalzberg. 
Usually only an hour or two a day remained available for conferences. 
Most of his time he spent marching about building sites, relaxing in 
studios, caf£s, and restaurants, or hurling long monologues at his 
associates who were already amply familiar with the unchanging 
themes and painfully tried to conceal their boredom. 

After two or three days in Munich, Hitler usually ordered prepara- 
tions for the drive to "the mountain'— Obersalzberg. We rode over 
dusty highways in several open cars; the autobahn to Salzburg did not 
exist in those days, although it was being built on a priority basis. 
Usually the motorcade stopped for coffee in a village inn at Lambach 
am Chiemsee, which served delicious pastries that Hitler could scarcely 
ever resist. Then the passengers in the following cars once more swal- 
lowed dust for two hours, for the column rode in close file. After 
Berchtesgaden came the steep mountain road full of potholes, until 
we arrived at Hitler's small, pleasant wooden house on Obersalzberg. 
It had a wide overhanging roof and modest interior: a dining room, a 
small living room, and three bedrooms. The furniture was bogus old- 
German peasant style and gave the house a comfortable petit-bourgeois 
look. A brass canary cage, a cactus, and a rubber plant intensified this 
impression. There were swastikas on knickknacks and pillows em- 
broidered by admiring women, combined with, say, a rising sun or a 
vow of "eternal loyalty." Hitler commented to me with some embarrass- 
ment: "I know these are not beautiful things, but many of them are 
presents. I shouldn't like to part with them." 

Soon he emerged from his bedroom, having changed out of his 
jacket into a Bavarian sports coat of light-blue linen, which he wore 
with a yellow tie. Usually he fell to talking about his building plans. 

A few hours later a small Mercedes sedan would drive up with his 
two secretaries, Fraulein Wolf and Fraulein Schroder. A simple Munich 
girl would usually be with them. She was pleasant and fresh-faced 
rather than beautiful and had a modest air. There was nothing about 
her to suggest that she was a ruler's mistress: Eva Braun. 

This sedan was never allowed to drive in the official motorcade, for 
no one was to connect it with Hitler. The secretaries also served the func- 
tion of disguising the mistress's presence. I could only wonder at the way 
Hitler and Eva Braun avoided anything that might suggest an intimate 

47 ) My Catalyst 

relationship— only to go upstairs to the bedrooms together late at night. It 
has always remained incomprehensible to me why this needless, forced 
practice of keeping their distance was continued even in this inner circle 
whose members could not help being aware of the truth. 

Eva Braun kept her distance from every one of Hitler s intimates. 
She was the same toward me too; that changed only in the course of 
years. When we became more familiar with one another I realized that 
her reserved manner, which impressed many people as haughty, was 
merely embarrassment; she was well aware of her dubious position in 
Hitler s court. 

During those early years of our acquaintanceship Hitler, Eva Braun, 
an adjutant, and a servant were the only persons who stayed in the small 
house; we guests, five or six of us, including Martin Bormann and Press 
Chief Dietrich, as well as the two secretaries, were put up in a nearby 

Hitler s decision to settle on Obersalzberg seemed to point to a love 
of nature. But I was mistaken about that. He did frequently admire a 
beautiful view, but as a rule he was more affected by the awesomeness of 
the abysses than by the harmony of a landscape. It may be that he felt 
more than he allowed himself to express. I noticed that he took little 
pleasure in flowers and considered them entirely as decorations. Some 
time around 1934, when a delegation of Berlin women's organizations was 
planning to welcome Hitler at Anhalter Station and hand him flowers, 
the head of the organization called Hanke, then the Propaganda Minis- 
ter s secretary, to ask what Hitlers favorite flower was. Hanke said to me: 
I've telephoned around, asked the adjutants, but there's no answer. He 
hasn't any." He reflected for a while: "What do you think, Speer? 
Shouldn't we say edelweiss? I think edelweiss sounds right. First of all 
it's rare and then it also comes from the Bavarian mountains. Let's simply 
say edelweiss!" From then on the edelweiss was officially "the Fuehrer's 
flower." The incident shows how much liberty party propaganda some- 
times took in shaping Hitler's image. 

Hitler often talked about mountain tours he had undertaken in the 
past. From a mountain climber's point of view, however, they did not 
amount to much. He rejected mountain climbing or alpine skiing: "What 
pleasure can there be in prolonging the horrible winter artificially by 
staying in the mountains?" His dislike for snow burst out repeatedly, long 
before the catastrophic winter campaign of 1941-42. "If I had my way 
I'd forbid these sports, with all the accidents people have doing them. But 
of course the mountain troops draw their recruits from such fools." 

Between 1934 and 1936 Hitler still took tramps on the public forest 
paths, accompanied by his guests and three or four plainclothes detec- 
tives belonging to his SS bodyguard. At such times Eva Braun was per- 
mitted to accompany him, but only trailing along with the two secre- 


taries at the end of the file. It was considered a sign of favor when he 
called someone up to the front, although conversation with him flowed 
rather thinly. After perhaps half an hour Hitler would change partners: 
"Send the press chief to me," and the companion of the moment would 
be demoted back to the rear. Hitler set a fast pace. Frequently other 
walkers met us; they would pause at the side of the path, offering reverent 
greetings. Some would take up their courage, usually women or girls, and 
address Hitler, whereupon he would respond with a few friendly words. 

The destination was often the Hochlenzer, a small mountain inn, on 
the Scharitzkehl, about an hour's walk, where we sat outside at plain 
wooden tables and had a glass of milk or beer. On rare occasions there 
would be a longer tour; I remember one with General von Blomberg, 
the Commander in Chief of the army. We had the impression that weighty 
military problems were being discussed, since everyone had to stay far 
enough behind to be out of hearing. Even when we rested for a while 
in a clearing in the woods, Hitler had his servant spread his blankets 
at a considerable distance from the rest of us, and he stretched out on 
them with the general— a peaceful and innocent-seeming sight. 

Another time we drove by car to the Konigssee and from there by 
motorboat to the Bartholoma Peninsula; or else we took a three-hour 
hike over the Scharitzkehl to the Konigssee. On the last part of this walk 
we had to thread our way through numerous strollers who had been 
lured out by the lovely weather. Interestingly enough, these many people 
did not immediately recognize Hitler in his rustic Bavarian clothes, since 
scarcely anyone imagined that he would be among the hikers. But shortly 
before we reached our destination, the Schiffmeister restaurant, a band 
of enthusiasts began excitedly following our group; they had belatedly 
realized whom they had encountered. Hitler in the lead, almost running, 
we barely reached the door before we were overtaken by the swelling 
crowd. We sat over coffee and cake while the big square outside filled. 
Hitler waited until police reinforcements had been brought up before he 
entered the open car, which had been driven there to meet us. The front 
seat was folded back, and he stood beside the driver, left hand resting on 
the windshield, so that even those standing at a distance could see him. 
Two men of the escort squad walked in front of the car, three more on 
either side, while the car moved at a snail's pace through the throng. I 
sat as usual in the jump seat close behind Hitler and shall never forget 
that surge of rejoicing, the ecstasy reflected in so many faces. Wherever 
Hitler went during those first years of his rule, wherever his car stopped 
for a short time, such scenes were repeated. The mass exultation was not 
called forth by rhetoric or suggestion, but solely by the effect of Hitler's 
presence. Whereas individuals in the crowd were subject to this influence 
only for a few seconds at a time, Hitler himself was eternally exposed to 
the worship of the masses. At the time I admired him for nevertheless 
retaining his informal habits in private. 

49 ) My Catalyst 

Perhaps it is understandable that I was carried along by these 
tempests of homage. But it was even more overwhelming for me to 
speak with the idol of a nation a few minutes or a few hours later, to 
discuss building plans with him, sit beside him in the theater, or eat 
ravioli with him in the Osteria. It was this contrast that overcame me. 

Only a few months before I had been carried away by the prospect 
of drafting and executing buildings. Now I was completely under Hitler s 
spell, unreservedly and unthinkingly held by him. I was ready to follow 
him anywhere. Yet his ostensible interest in me was only to launch me on 
a glorious career as an architect. Years later, in Spandau, I read Ernst 
Cassirer's comment on the men who of their own accord threw away 
man's highest privilege: to be an autonomous person.* 

Now I was one of them. 

Two deaths in 1934 delimited the private and the political realms. 
After some weeks of severe illness, Hitler's architect Troost died on Janu- 
ary 21; and on August 2, Reich President von Hindenburg passed away. 
His death left the way clear for Hitler to assume total power. 

On October 15, 1933, Hitler had solemnly laid the cornerstone for the 
House of German Art in Munich. He delivered the ceremonial hammer 
blows with a fine silver hammer Troost had designed specially for this 
day. But the hammer broke. Now, four months later, Hitler remarked to 
us: "When that hammer shattered I knew at once it was an evil omen. 
Something is going to happen, I thought. Now we know why the ham- 
mer broke. The architect was destined to die." I have witnessed quite a 
few examples of Hitler's superstitiousness. 

But for me Troost's death meant a grave loss. A close relationship 
had just become established between us, and I counted on profiting, 
both humanly and artistically, from it. Funk, then state secretary in 
Goebbels's Propaganda Ministry, took a different view. On the day of 
Troost's death I met him in Goebbels's anteroom, a long cigar in his round 
face. "Congratulations! Now you're the first!" he said to me. 

I was twenty-eight years old. 

In The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), p. 286, 
Ernst Cassirer writes: "But here are men, men of education and intelligence, honest 
and upright men who suddenly give up the highest human privilege. They have 
ceased to be free and personal agents/' And earlier: "Man no longer questions his 
environment; he accepts it as a matter of course." 


Architectural Megalomania 

For a while it looked as if hitler himself intended to take over 
Troost's office. He worried lest the plans be carried out without the 
necessary sympathy with the deceased architect's vision. "I'd best take 
that in hand myself," he remarked. This notion, after all, was no stranger 
than his later assuming supreme command of the army. 

No doubt he had several weeks enjoyment out of imagining himself 
as the head of a smoothly functioning studio. On the trip to Munich he 
sometimes prepared himself for the role by discussing designs or making 
sketches, and a few hours later he would be sitting at the bureau mana- 
ger's drawing board correcting plans. But Bureau Manager Gall, a simple, 
straightforward Bavarian, defended Troost's work with unexpected ten- 
acity. He did not accept the highly detailed suggestions Hitler drafted 
and showed that he could do better. 

Hitler acquired confidence in him and soon tacitly dropped his plan. 
He acknowledged the man s ability. After some time he made Gall chief 
of the studio and gave him additional assignments. 

Hitler also remained close to the deceased architect's widow, with 
whom he had been friendly for a long time. She was a woman of taste 
and character who defended her frequently idiosyncratic views more 
obstinately than a good many men in high office. She came to the defense 
of her husband's work with a determination and sometimes a heatedness 
that made her much feared. Thus, she lashed out at Bonatz when he was 


51 ) Architectural Megalomania 

so imprudent as to object to Troost's design for Konigsplatz in Munich. 
She violently attacked the modern architects Vorhoelzer and Abel. In all 
these cases her views were the same as Hitler's. In addition she introduced 
her favorite Munich architects to him, made deprecatory or favorable 
remarks about artists and artistic events, and because Hitler frequently 
listened to her, became a kind of arbiter of art in Munich. But unfortu- 
nately not on questions of painting. For Hitler had given his photogra- 
pher, Hoffmann, the job of first sifting through the paintings submitted 
for the annual Grand Art Show. Frau Troost frequently protested against 
the one-sided selection, but in this field Hitler would not give way to her, 
so that she soon stopped going to the shows. 

If I myself wanted to give paintings to associates, I chose them from 
among the excluded pictures stored in the cellars of the House of Ger- 
man Art. Nowadays, when I see these paintings here and there in the 
homes of acquaintances, I am struck by the fact that they can scarcely 
be distinguished from the pictures that were actually shown at the time. 
The differences, once the subject of such violent controversies, have 
melted away in the interval. 

I was in Berlin during the Roehm putsch.* Tension hung over the 
city. Soldiers in battle array were encamped in the Tiergarten. Trucks 
full of police holding rifles cruised the streets. There was clearly an air 
of "something cooking," similar to that of July 20, 1944, which I would 
likewise experience in Berlin. 

The next day Goering was presented as the savior of the situation in 
Berlin. Late on the morning of July 1, Hitler returned after making a 
series of arrests in Munich, and I received a telephone call from his 
adjutant: "Have you any new designs? If so, bring them here!" That 
suggested that Hitler s entourage was trying to distract him by turning 
his mind to his architectural interests. 

Hitler was extremely excited and, as I believe to this day, inwardly 
convinced that he had come through a great danger. Again and again he 
described how he had forced his way into the Hotel Hanselmayer in 
Wiessee— not forgetting, in the telling, to make a show of his courage: 
"We were unarmed, imagine, and didn't know whether or not those swine 
might have armed guards to use against us." The homosexual atmosphere 
had disgusted him: "In one room we found two naked boysl" Evidently 
he believed that his personal action had averted a disaster at the last 
minute: "I alone was able to solve this problem. No one else!" 

His entourage tried to deepen his distaste for the executed SA leaders 
by assiduously reporting as many details as possible about the intimate 

* The Blood Purge of June 30, 1934. The official version was that Ernst Roehm, 
leader of the SA, was planning a putsch; hence the name.— Translators' note. 


life of Roehm and his following. Bruckner showed Hitler the menus of 
banquets held by the Roehm clique, which had purportedly been found 
in the Berlin SA headquarters. The menus listed a fantastic variety of 
courses, including foreign delicacies such as frogs' legs, birds' tongues, 
shark fins, seagulls' eggs, along with vintage French wines and the best 
champagnes. Hitler commented sarcastically: "So, here we have those 
revolutionaries! And our revolution was too tame for them." 

After paying a call on the President he returned overjoyed. Hinden- 
burg had approved his operation, he said, saying something like: "When 
circumstances require it, one must not shrink from the most extreme 
action. One must be able to spill blood also." The newspapers concur- 
rently reported that President von Hindenburg had officially praised 
Chancellor Hitler and Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Goering* for 
their action. 

The leadership became frenziedly busy justifying the operation. A 
day of great activity ended with a speech by Hitler to a special session of 
the Reichstag. His feelings of guilt were audible in his protestations of 
innocence. A Hitler defending himself was something we would not 
encounter again in the future, not even in 1939, at the beginning of the 
war. Even Minister of Justice Gurtner was dragged into the proceedings. 
Since he was nonpartisan and consequently did not appear to be depen- 
dent on Hitler, his support carried special weight with all doubters. The 
fact that the army silently accepted General Schleicher's death seemed 
highly significant. But what most impressed me, as well as many of my 
unpolitical acquaintances, was the attitude of Hindenburg. The field 
marshal of the First World War was held in reverence by people of 
middle-class origins. Even in my school days he epitomized the strong, 
steadfast hero of modern history, and as such seemed to belong to a 
somewhat legendary realm. During the last year of the war, we children 
were allowed to take part in the nationwide ceremony of driving nails 
into huge statues of Hindenburg— each nail representing a contribution of 
a mark. Thus for as long as I could remember he had been for me the 
symbol of authority. That Hitler's action was approved by this supreme 
judge was highly reassuring. 

It was no accident that after the Roehm putsch the Right, repre- 
sented by the President, the Minister of Justice, and the generals, lined 
up behind Hitler. These men were free of radical anti-Semitism of the 
sort Hitler advocated. They in fact despised that eruption of plebeian 
hatreds. Their conservatism had nothing in common with racist delusions. 
Their open display of sympathy for Hitler's intervention sprang from 
quite different causes: in the Blood Purge of June 30, 1934, the strong 

* While in prison I learned from Funk that Hindenburg had made a similar re- 
mark to him. The inside story of Hindenburg's congratulatory telegram remains an 
unfathomable mystery. 

53 ) Architectural Megalomania 

left wing of the party, represented chiefly by the SA, was eliminated. 
That wing had felt cheated of the fruits of the revolution. And not 
without reason. For the majority of the members of the SA, raised in 
the spirit of revolution before 1933, had taken Hitler s supposedly social- 
ist program seriously. During my brief period of activity in Wannsee I 
had been able to observe, on the lowest plane, how the ordinary SA man 
sacrificed himself for the movement, giving up time and personal safety 
in the expectation that he would some day receive tangible compensation. 
When nothing came of that, anger and discontent built up. It could easily 
have reached the explosive point. Possibly Hitlers action did indeed avert 
that "second revolution" Roehm was supposed to have been plotting. 

With such arguments we soothed our consciences. I myself and many 
others snatched avidly at excuses; the things that would have offended 
us two years before we now accepted as the standard of our new environ- 
ment. Any troublesome doubts were repressed. At a distance of decades 
I am staggered by our thoughtlessness in those years. 1 

These events led the very next day to a new commission for me. 
"You must rebuild the Borsig Palace as quickly as possible. I want to 
transfer the top SA leadership from Munich to Berlin, so that I can have 
them nearby in the future. Go over there and start at once." To my objec- 
tion that the offices of the Vice Chancellor were in the Borsig Palace, 
Hitler merely replied: "Tell them to clear out right away! Don t give that 
a second thought!" 

With these orders, I promptly went over to Papen s office. The office 
manager of course knew nothing about the plan. He proposed that I 
wait for a few months until new quarters had been found and prepared. 
When I returned to Hitler, he flew into a rage. He again ordered that 
the building be immediately evacuated and told me to begin on my 
project without consideration for the presence of the officials. 

Papen remained invisible. His officials wavered but promised to 
arrange their files and transfer them to a provisional home in a week or 
two. I thereupon ordered the workmen to move into the building with- 
out further ado and encouraged them to knock the heavy plaster decora- 
tions from the walls and ceilings in halls and anterooms, creating the 
maximum noise and dust. The dust wafted through the cracks of the 
doors into the offices, and the racket made all work impossible. Hitler 
was delighted. Along with his expressions of approval he made jokes 
about the "dusty bureaucrats." 

Twenty-four hours later they moved out. In one of the rooms I saw 
a large pool of dried blood on the floor. There, on June 30, Herbert von 
Bose, one of Papen s assistants, had been shot. I looked away and from 
then on avoided the room. But the incident did not affect me any more 
deeply than that. 


On August 2, Hindenburg died. That same day Hitler personally 
commissioned me to take care of the background for the funeral cere- 
monies at the Tannenberg Monument in East Prussia. 

I had a high wooden stand built in the inner courtyard. Decorations 
were limited to banners of black crepe hung from the high towers that 
framed the inner courtyard. Himmler turned up for a few hours with a 
staff of SS leaders and had his men explain the security measures to me. 
He retained his aloofness while I set forth my sketch. He gave me the 
impression of cold impersonality. He did not seem to deal with people 
but rather to manipulate them. 

The benches of fresh, light-colored wood disturbed the intended 
impression. The weather was good, and so I had the structure painted 
black; but unfortunately toward evening it began to rain. The rain con- 
tinued for the next few days and the paint remained wet. We had bales 
of black cloth flown by special plane from Berlin and covered the 
benches with it. Nevertheless the wet paint soaked through, and a good 
many of the funeral guests must have ruined their clothes. 

On the eve of the funeral the coffin was brought on a gun carriage 
from Neudeck, Hindenburg's East Prussian estate, to one of the towers 
of the monument. Torchbearers and the traditional flags of German regi- 
ments of the First World War accompanied it; not a single word was 
spoken, not a command given. This reverential silence was more impres- 
sive than the organized ceremonial of the following days. 

In the morning Hindenburg's coffin was placed on a bier in the 
center of the Court of Honor. The speaker's lectern was set up right 
beside it, rather than at a discreet distance. Hitler stepped forward. 
Schaub took the manuscript of his funeral oration from a briefcase and 
laid it on the lectern. Hitler began to speak, hesitated, and shook his 
head angrily in a manner quite out of keeping with the solemnity of the 
occasion. The adjutant had given him the wrong manuscript. After the 
mistake was corrected, Hitler read a surprisingly cool, formal memorial 

Hindenburg had long— much too long for Hitler's impatience— made 
difficulties for him. The old man had been rigid and thick-headed on 
many matters; Hitler had often had to resort to cunning, cleverness, or 
intrigue to win him over. One of Hitler's shrewd moves had been to send 
Funk, then still Goebbels's state secretary and an East Prussian by birth, 
to the President's morning press briefing. As a fellow countryman, Funk 
was often able to take the sting out of a bit of news that Hindenburg 
found objectionable or to present the matter so that the President did 
not take offense. 

Hindenburg and many of his political allies had expected the new 
regime to reinstate the monarchy. Any such step, however, was far from 
Hitler's mind. He was apt to make such remarks as: 

55 ) Architectural Megalomania 

I've permitted the Social Democratic ministers like Severing to continue 
receiving their pensions. Think whatever you like about them, you have to 
grant there is one thing to their credit: They did away with the monarchy. 
That was a great step forward. To that extent they prepared the way for us. 
And now we re supposed to bring back this monarchy? Am I to divide my 
power? Look at Italy! Do they think I'm that dumb? Kings have always 
been ungrateful to their foremost associates. We need only remember 
Bismarck. No, I'm not falling for that. Even though the Hohenzollerns are 
being so friendly right now. 

Early in 1934 Hitler surprised me with my first major commission. 
The temporary bleachers on the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg were to be 
replaced by a permanent stone installation. I struggled over those first 
sketches until, in an inspired moment, the idea came to me: a mighty 
flight of stairs topped and enclosed by a long colonnade, flanked on both 
ends by stone abutments. Undoubtedly it was influenced by the Per- 
gamum altar. The indispensable platform for honored guests presented 
problems; I tried to place it as unobtrusively as possible midway in the 
flight of stairs. 

With some trepidation I asked Hitler to look at the model. I was 
worried because the design went far beyond the scope of my assign- 
ment. The structure had a length of thirteen hundred feet and a height 
of eighty feet. It was almost twice the length of the Baths of Caracalla 
in Rome. 

Hitler took his time looking at the plaster model from all sides, pro- 
fessionally assuming the proper eye level, silently studying the drawings, 
and remaining totally impassive through it all. I was beginning to think 
he would reject my work. Then, just as he had done that time at our first 
meeting, he tersely said, "Agreed," and took his leave. To this day I am 
not sure why, given as he was to long-winded comments, he remained 
so terse about such decisions. 

Where other architects were concerned, Hitler usually rejected the 
first draft. He liked an assignment to be worked over several times and 
even during construction would insist on changes in detail. But after this 
first test of my ability he let me go on without interference. Henceforth 
he respected my ideas and treated me, as an architect, as if I were his 

Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit 
his time and its spirit to posterity. Ultimately, all that remained to remind 
men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture, 
he would philosophize. What had remained of the emperors of Rome? 
What would still bear witness to them today, if their buildings had not 
survived? Periods of weakness are bound to occur in the history of nations, 
he argued; but at their lowest ebb, their architecture will speak to them 


of former power. Naturally, a new national consciousness could not be 
awakened by architecture alone. But when after a long spell of inertia 
a sense of national grandeur was born anew, the monuments of men's 
ancestors were the most impressive exhortations. Today, for example, 
Mussolini could point to the buildings of the Roman Empire as symbol- 
izing the heroic spirit of Rome. Thus he could fire his nation with the 
idea of a modern empire. Our architectural works should also speak to 
the conscience of a future Germany centuries from now. In advancing 
this argument Hitler also stressed the value of a permanent type of 

The building on the Zeppelin Field was begun at once, in order to 
have at least the platform ready for the coming Party Rally. To clear 
ground for it, the Nuremberg streetcar depot had to be removed. I 
passed by its remains after it had been blown up. The iron reinforcements 
protruded from concrete debris and had already begun to rust. One could 
easily visualize their further decay. This dreary sight led me to some 
thoughts which I later propounded to Hitler under the pretentious head- 
ing of "A Theory of Ruin Value." The idea was that buildings of modern 
construction were poorly suited to form that "bridge of tradition" to future 
generations which Hitler was calling for. It was hard to imagine that rust- 
ing heaps of rubble could communicate these heroic inspirations which 
Hitler admired in the monuments of the past. My "theory" was intended 
to deal with this dilemma. By using special materials and by applying 
certain principles of statics, we should be able to build structures which 
even in a state of decay, after hundreds or (such were our reckonings) 
thousands of years would more or less resemble Roman models. 2 

To illustrate my ideas I had a romantic drawing prepared. It showed 
what the reviewing stand on the Zeppelin Field would look like after 
generations of neglect, overgrown with ivy, its columns fallen, the walls 
crumbling here and there, but the outlines still clearly recognizable. In 
Hitlers entourage this drawing was regarded as blasphemous. That I 
could even conceive of a period of decline for the newly founded Reich 
destined to last a thousand years seemed outrageous to many of Hitler s 
closest followers. But he himself accepted my ideas as logical and illu- 
minating. He gave orders that in the future the important buildings of his 
Reich were to be erected in keeping with the principles of this 'law of 

In the course of an inspection of the Party Rally area Hitler turned 
to Bormann and in a few good-natured words said that I must hence- 
forth appear in party uniform. Those who were with him constantly, his 
doctor, the photographer, even the director of Daimler-Benz, had already 
received a uniform. The sight of a single civilian therefore struck a 
jarring note. But this little gesture also meant that Hitler now counted 

57 ) Architectural Megalomania 

me as a member of his intimate circle. He had never said a word of 
reproof when one of his acquaintances in the Chancellery or at the 
Berghof appeared in civilian dress, for Hitler himself preferred such dress 
whenever possible. But on his journeys and inspections he was appearing 
in an official capacity, and to his mind such occasions called for a uni- 
form. Thus, at the beginning of 1934, I was appointed Abteilungsleiter 
(department chief) on the staff of his deputy, Rudolf Hess. A few months 
later Goebbels conferred the same rank upon me within his staff for my 
contribution toward the Party Rally, the Harvest Festival, and the May 1 

After January 30, 1934, at the suggestion of Robert Ley, head of 
die Labor Front, a leisure-time organization was created. I was supposed 
to take over the section called Beauty of Labor; the name had provoked 
a good deal of mockery, as had the title Strength through Joy itself. A 
short while before, on a trip through the Dutch province of Limburg, 
Ley had seen a number of mines conspicuous for their neatness and 
cleanliness and surrounded by beautifully tended gardens. By tempera- 
ment Ley always tended to generalize, and he now wanted to have all 
of German industry follow this example. The project turned out to be 
an extremely gratifying one, at least for me personally. First we per- 
suaded factory owners to modernize their offices and to have some 
flowers about. But we did not stop there. Lawn was to take the place of 
asphalt. What had been wasteland was to be turned into little parks 
where the workers could sit during breaks. We urged that window areas 
within factories be enlarged and workers' canteens set up. What was 
more, we designed the necessary artifacts for these reforms, from simple, 
well-shaped flatware to sturdy furniture, all of which we had manufac- 
tured in large quantities. We provided educational movies and a coun- 
seling service to help businessmen on questions of illumination and 
ventilation. We were able to draw former union leaders and some mem- 
bers of the dissolved Arts and Crafts Society into this campaign. One 
and all devoted themselves to the cause of making some improvements 
in the workers' living conditions and moving closer to the ideal of a 
classless People's Community. However, it was somewhat dismaying to 
discover that Hitler took hardly any interest in these ideas. He who could 
lose himself in the details of an architectural project proved remarkably 
indifferent when I came to him with reports of my progress in this social 
area. The British ambassador in Berlin, at any rate, thought better of it 
than Hitler.* 

* Sir Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission (New York, 1940), p. 15: "There 
are, in fact, many things in the Nazi organization and social institutions, as distinct 
from its rabid nationalism and ideology, which we might study and adapt to our own 
use with great profit both to the health and happiness of our own nation and old 


It was due to my new party rank that in the spring of 1934 I received 
my first invitation to an official evening reception that Hitler gave as 
party chief, one to which wives were also invited. We were seated in 
groups of six to eight persons at round tables in the large dining hall of 
the Chancellor's residence. Hitler went from table to table, said a few 
friendly words, and made the acquaintance of the ladies. When he came 
up to us I introduced my wife, whom I had hitherto not mentioned to 
him. "Why have you deprived us of your wife for so long?" he com- 
mented privately a few days later, obviously much taken with her. In 
fact one reason I had avoided introducing her earlier was my dislike for 
the way Hitler treated his mistress. Moreover, it seemed to me that it 
should have been the business of the adjutants to invite my wife or to 
call Hitler s attention to her existence. But you could not expect any 
sense of etiquette from them. In the final analysis Hitler s own petit- 
bourgeois origins were reflected in the behavior of the adjutants. 

That first evening they met, Hitler said to my wife with a certain 
solemnity: "Your husband is going to erect buildings for me such as have 
not been created for four thousand years." 

Every year a rally was held at the Zeppelin Field for the assemblage 
of middle and minor party functionaries, the so-called Amtswalter, who 
were in charge of the various organizations affiliated with the NSDAP. 
While the SA, the Labor Front, and, of course, the army tried to make 
a good showing at its mass meetings and impress Hitler and visitors by 
their bearing and discipline, it proved a rather difficult task to present the 
Amtswalter in a favorable fashion. For the most part they had converted 
their small prebends into sizable paunches; they simply could not be 
expected to line up in orderly ranks. There were conferences about this 
problem in the Organization Section for Party Rallies, for the appearance 
of the Amtswalter had already provoked some sarcastic comments on 
Hitlers part. The saving idea came to me: "Let's have them march up 
in darkness." 

I explained my plan to the organization leaders of the Party Rally. 
The thousands of flags belonging to all the local groups in Germany were 
to be held in readiness behind the high fences surrounding the field. The 
flagbearers were to divide into ten columns, forming lanes in which the 
Amtswalter would march up. Since all this was to take place at evening, 
bright spotlights would be cast on these banners, and the great eagle 
crowning them all. That alone would have a dramatic effect. But even 
this did not seem sufficient to me. I had occasionally seen our new anti- 
aircraft searchlights blazing miles into the sky. I asked Hitler to let me 
have a hundred and thirty of these. Goering made a fuss at first, since 
these hundred and thirty searchlights represented the greater part of the 
strategic reserve. But Hitler won him over: "If we use them in such 

59 ) Architectural Megalomania 

large numbers for a thing like this, other countries will think we're 
swimming in searchlights." 

The actual effect far surpassed anything I had imagined. The hun- 
dred and thirty sharply defined beams, placed around the field at 
intervals of forty feet, were visible to a height of twenty to twenty-five 
thousand feet, after which they merged into a general glow. The feeling 
was of a vast room, with the beams serving as mighty pillars of infinitely 
high outer walls. Now and then a cloud moved through this wreath of 
lights, bringing an element of surrealistic surprise to the mirage. I 
imagine that this "cathedral of light" was the first luminescent architec- 
ture of this type, and for me it remains not only my most beautiful archi- 
tectural concept but, after its fashion, the only one which has survived 
the passage of time. "The effect, which was both solemn and beautiful, 
was like being in a cathedral of ice," British Ambassador Henderson 
wrote. 3 

When it came to cornerstone layings, there seemed no way to blot 
out the dignitaries, ministers, Reichsleiters, and Gauleiters, although these 
too were a less than impressive bunch. The parade marshals had all they 
could do to teach them to line up properly. When Hitler appeared they 
stiffened to attention and raised their arms in salute. At the cornerstone 
laying of the Nuremberg Kongresshalle, Hitler saw me standing in the 
second rank. He interrupted the solemn ceremonial to extend his hand 
to me. I was so overwhelmed by this unusual sign of favor that I let my 
own hand, raised in salute, fall with a loud smack on the bald head of 
Julius Streicher, the Gauleiter of Franconia, who stood just front of me. 

During the Nuremberg Party Rallies, Hitler remained out of sight 
most of the time, as far as his intimates were concerned. He withdrew 
either to prepare his speeches or to attend one of the numerous functions. 
He took special satisfaction in the foreign visitors and delegations who 
came each year in growing numbers, especially when these were from 
the democratic West. During his hasty lunches he asked to have their 
names read and was obviously pleased at the interest shown by the world 
at large in National Socialist Germany. 

I too had a strenuous time of it in Nuremberg, having been made 
responsible for all the buildings in which Hitler would appear in the 
course of the rally. As "chief decorator" I had to check on the arrange- 
ments shortly before the beginning of the function, then rush along to 
see to the next. At that time I dearly loved flags and used them wherever 
I could. They were a way of introducing a play of color into somber 
architecture. I found it a boon that the swastika flag Hitler had designed 
proved more amenable to these uses than a flag divided into three stripes 
of color. Of course it was not altogether consonant with the flag's dignity 
to use it mostly for decorative effect, for accenting the pleasing har- 
monies of certain fagades or covering ugly nineteenth-century buildings 


from eaves to sidewalks. Quite often I added gold ribbons to the flag to 
intensify the effect of the red. But it was always scenic drama I was after. 
I arranged for veritable orgies of flags in the narrow streets of Goslar and 
Nuremberg, with banners stretched from house to house, so that the sky 
was almost blotted out. 

With all this to attend to, I missed most of Hitler s rallies except for 
his "cultural speeches," as he himself called these major oratorical flights. 
He used to draft these while he was at Obersalzberg. At the time I 
admired the speeches not so much, I thought, for their rhetorical bril- 
liance as for what I felt to be their incisive content, their intellectual 
level. In Spandau I decided I would reread them, once my prison term 
was over, on the theory that I would find in them one element in my 
former world which would not repel me. But my expectations were dis- 
appointed. In the context of that time they had said a great deal to me; 
now they seemed empty, without tension, shallow and useless. What was 
more, in them Hitler openly aired his intention to pervert the very mean- 
ing of the concept of culture by mobilizing it for his own power goals. 
I found it incomprehensible that these tirades should once have im- 
pressed me so profoundly. What had done it? 

I also never missed the first event of the Party Rally, a performance 
of Die Meistersinger with the ensemble of the Berlin State Opera under 
Furtwangler. One might have expected that such a gala night, which 
could be matched only by the performances in Bayreuth, would have 
been jammed. Over a thousand leaders of the party received invitations 
and tickets, but they apparently preferred to investigate the quality of 
Nuremberg beer or Franconian wine. Each of them probably assumed 
that the others would do their duty for the party and sit out the opera— 
indeed, legend has it that the top leadership of the party was interested 
in music. But in fact the leading men in the party were on the whole dia- 
monds in the rough who had as little bent for classical music as for art and 
literature in general. Even the few representatives of the intelligentsia 
in Hitler s leadership, such as Goebbels, did not bother with such func- 
tions as the regular concerts of the Berlin Philharmonic under Furt- 
wangler. Of all the prominent personalities of the Third Reich, only 
Minister of the Interior Frick could be met at these concerts. Hitler, too, 
who seemed partial to music, went to the Berlin Philharmonic concerts 
only on rare official occasions after 1933. 

Given this background, it is understandable that the Nuremberg 
Opera House was almost empty in 1933 when Hitler entered the central 
box to hear Die Meistersinger. He reacted with intense vexation. Nothing 
he said, was so insulting and so difficult for an artist as playing to an 
empty house. He ordered patrols sent out to bring the high party func- 
tionaries from their quarters, beer halls, and cafes to the opera house; 
but even so the seats could not be filled. The following day many jokes 

6i ) Architectural Megalomania 

were told about where and how the missing leaders had been picked up. 

Next year Hitler explicitly ordered the party chiefs to attend the 
festival performance. They showed their boredom; many were visibly 
overpowered by sleep. Moreover, to Hitlers mind the sparse applause 
did not do justice to the brilliant performance. From 1935 on, therefore, 
the indifferent party audience was replaced by members of the public 
who had to buy their tickets for hard cash. Only then was the "atmo- 
sphere" as encouraging and the applause as hearty as Hitler required. 

Late at night I would return from my rounds to the Hotel Deutscher 
Hof, which had been reserved for Hitlers staff and for the Gauleiters 
and Reichsleiters. In the hotel restaurant I usually found a group of old 
Gauleiters waxing boisterous over their beer as they denounced the 
party's betrayal of the principles of the revolution and betrayal of the 
workers. Here was a sign that the ideas of Gregor Strasser, who had 
once led the anticapitalist wing within the NSDAP, were still alive, 
though reduced to mere bombast. Only in alcohol could these fellows 
resurrect their old revolutionary elan. 

In 1934 some military exercises were performed for the first time at 
the Party Rally, in Hitler's presence. That same evening Hitler officially 
visited the soldiers' bivouac. As a former corporal, he seemed thrown 
back into a world that was familiar to him. He mingled with the soldiers 
at the campfires, was surrounded by them, tossed jokes back and forth 
with them. He returned from this episode in a relaxed mood, and during 
a late snack, described it all with a good many telling details. 

The high command of the army, however, was by no means over- 
joyed. Army Adjutant Hossbach spoke of the soldiers' "breaches of dis- 
cipline." He insisted that such familiarities must be prevented in the 
future, since they infringed upon the dignity of the Chief of State. Hitler 
privately expressed annoyance with this criticism, but was ready to 
comply. I was astonished at his almost timid attitude in the face of these 
demands. But he must have felt he had to be careful of the army and 
have been still shaky in his role as Chief of State. 

During the preparations for the Party Rallies I met a woman who 
had impressed me even in my student days: Leni Riefenstahl, who had 
starred in or had directed well-known mountain and skiing movies. 
Hitler appointed her to make films of the rallies. As the only woman 
officially involved in the proceedings, she had frequent conflicts with the 
party organization, which was soon up in arms against her. The Nazis were 
by tradition antifeminist and could hardly brook this self-assured woman, 
the more so since she knew how to bend this men's world to her purposes. 
Intrigues were launched and slanderous stories carried to Hess, in order 
to have her ousted. But after the first Party Rally film, which convinced 
even the doubters of her skill as a director, these attacks ceased. 

When I was first introduced to her, she took a yellowed newspaper 


clipping from a little chest. "Three years ago, when you reconstructed 
the Gau headquarters, I clipped your picture from the newspaper," she 
said. Why in the world had she done that, I asked in astonishment. "I 
thought at the time that with your head you might well play a part. . . . 
In one of my movies, of course." 

I recall, incidentally, that the footage taken during one of the solemn 
sessions of the 1935 Party Congress was spoiled. At Leni RiefenstahTs 
suggestion Hitler gave orders for the shots to be refilmed in the studio. 
I was called in to do a backdrop simulating a section of the Kongresshalle, 
as well as a realistic model of the platform and lectern. I had spotlights 
aimed at it; the production staff scurried around— while Streicher, Rosen- 
berg, and Frank could be seen walking up and down with their manu- 
scripts, determinedly memorizing their parts. Hess arrived and was 
asked to pose for the first shot. Exactly as he had done before an audience 
of 30,000 at the Party Congress, he solemnly raised his hand. With his 
special brand of ardor, he turned precisely to the spot where Hitler would 
have been sitting, snapped to attention and cried: "My Leader, I wel- 
come you in the name of the Party Congress! The congress will now 
continue. The Fuehrer speaks!" 

He did it all so convincingly that from that point on I was no longer 
so sure of the genuineness of his feelings. The three others also gave 
excellent performances in the emptiness of the studio, proving themselves 
gifted actors. I was rather disturbed; Frau Riefenstahl, on the other hand, 
thought the acted scenes better than the original presentation. 

By this time I thoroughly admired the art with which Hitler would 
feel his way during his rallies until he had found the point to unleash 
the first great storm of applause. I was by no means unaware of the 
demagogic element; indeed I contributed to it myself by my scenic 
arrangements. Nevertheless, up to this time I had believed that the 
feelings of the speakers were genuine. It was therefore an upsetting dis- 
covery, that day in the studio, when I saw that all this emotion could be 
represented "authentically" even without an audience. 

For the buildings in Nuremberg I had in mind a synthesis between 
Troost's classicism and Tessenow's simplicity. I did not call it neo- 
classicist, but neoclassical, for I thought I had derived it from the Dorian 
style. I was deluding myself, deliberately forgetting that these buildings 
had to provide a monumental backdrop such as had already been at- 
tempted on the Champs de Mars in Paris during the French Revolution, 
although the resources at that time were more modest. Terms like "classi- 
cal" and "simple" were scarcely consonant with the gigantic proportions 
I employed in Nuremberg. Yet, to this day I still like my Nuremberg 
sketches best of all, rather than many others that I later prepared for 
Hitler and that turned out considerably more practical. 

63 ) Architectural Megalomania 

Because of my fondness for the Doric, when I went on my first trip 
abroad in May 1935, 1 did not go to Italy to see the Renaissance palaces 
and the colossal buildings of Rome, although these might have served me 
better as prototypes for what was wanted. Instead, I turned to Greece— 
a sign of where I considered my architectural allegiance to lie. My wife 
and I sought out chiefly examples of Doric buildings. I shall never forget 
how overwhelmed we were by the reconstructed stadium of Athens. Two 
years later, when I myself had to design a stadium, I borrowed its basic 
horseshoe form. 

In Delphi I thought I discerned how the purity of Greek artistic 
creativeness was speedily contaminated by the wealth won in the Ionian 
colonies in Asia. Didn't this prove how sensitive a high artistic conscious- 
ness was and how little it took to distort the ideal conception to the point 
of unrecognizability? I happily played with such theories; it never oc- 
cured to me that my own works might be subject to these same laws. 

When we came back in June 1935 my own house in Berlin- 
Schlachtensee was completed. It was of modest dimensions, 1345 square 
feet of living space comprising one dining room, one living room, and 
minimal bedrooms— in deliberate contrast to the recent habit among the 
leaders of the Reich, who were moving into huge villas or acquiring 
palaces. We wanted to avoid all that, for we had observed that in sur- 
rounding themselves with pomp and stiff officialism, these people were 
condemning themselves to a slow process of "petrifaction"— which in- 
volved their private lives as well. 

In any case I could not have built on any greater scale, since I 
lacked the means. My house cost seventy thousand marks; in order to 
swing it I had to ask my father to take a mortgage of thirty thousand 
marks. Although I was acting as a free-lance architect for the party and 
the state, my income remained low. For in an idealistic spirit which 
seemed to accord with the temper of the time, I had renounced any 
architect's fees for all my official buildings. 

This attitude, however, caused some amazement in party circles. 
One day in Berlin, Goering said to me in high good humor: "Well, Herr 
Speer, you have a great deal to do now, of course. You must be earning 
plenty." When I said that was not the case, he stared incredulously at 
me. "What's that? An architect as busy as you? I figured you for a couple 
of hundred thousand a year. That's all nonsense, this idealistic business. 
You must make money!" Thereafter I accepted the architect's fee, except 
for my Nuremberg buildings, for which I received a thousand marks a 
month. But it was not only on financial grounds that I clung to my pro- 
fessional independence and fended off an official post. Hitler had, I 
knew, much greater confidence in nonofficial architects— his prejudice 
against bureaucrats colored his views in everything. At the end of my 
career as an architect my fortune had increased to about one and a 


half million marks, and the Reich owed me another million that I did 
not collect. 

My family lived happily in this house. I wish I could write that I had 
a share in this familial happiness, as my wife and I had once dreamed. 
But by the time I arrived home, it would be late in the evening and the 
children would have long since been put to bed. I would sit with my 
wife for a while— silent from exhaustion. This kind of rigidity became 
more and more the norm, and when I consider the matter in retrospect, 
what was happening to me was no different from what was happening to 
the party bigwigs, who ruined their family life by their ostentatious style 
of living. They froze into poses of officialism. My own rigidity sprang from 
excessive work. 

In the autumn of 1934 0**° Meissner, state secretary in the Chancel- 
lery, who had served under Ebert and Hindenburg and now was working 
for his third Chief of State, telephoned me. I was to come to Weimar 
the next day in order to accompany Hitler to Nuremberg. 

I sat up until the wee hours sketching out ideas that had been 
exciting me for some time. More major construction for the Party 
Rallies was wanted: a field for military exercises, a large stadium, a hall 
for Hitler s cultural addresses and for concerts as well. Why not con- 
centrate all that, together with what already existed, into a great center? 
I thought. Until then I had not ventured to take the initiative on such 
questions, for Hitler kept this sort of decision for himself. I therefore went 
about drafting this plan with some hesitation. 

In Weimar, Hitler showed me a sketch for a "Party Forum" by Pro- 
fessor Paul Schultze-Naumburg. "It looks like an oversized marketplace 
for a provincial town," he commented. "There's nothing distinctive about 
it, nothing that sets it off from former times. If we are going to build a 
party forum, we want people centuries hence to be able to see that our 
times had a certain building style, like Konigsplatz in Munich, for 
example." Schultze-Naumburg, a pillar of the League of Struggle for 
German Culture, was given no chance to defend his proposal; he was 
not even called into Hitlers presence. With total disregard for the man's 
reputation, Hitler threw away the plans and ordered a new competition 
among various architects of his choice. 

We went on to Nietzsche's house where his sister, Frau Forster- 
Nietzsche, was expecting Hitler. This solitary, eccentric woman obviously 
could not get anywhere with Hitler; an oddly shallow conversation at 
cross-purposes ensued. The principle purpose of the meeting, however, 
was settled to the satisfaction of all parties: Hitler undertook to finance 
an annex to the old Nietzsche house, and Frau Forster-Nietzsche was 
willing to have Schultze-Naumburg design it. "He's better at that sort of 
thing, doing something in keeping with the old house," Hitler remarked. 
He was plainly pleased to be able to offer the architect some small sop. 

65 ) Architectural Megalomania 

Next morning we drove by car to Nuremberg, although Hitler pre- 
ferred the railroad at that period, for reasons that I was to learn that very 
day. As always he sat beside his driver in the dark-blue open seven-liter 
supercharged Mercedes; I was behind him on one jump seat, on the 
other his servant, who on request produced from a pouch automobile 
maps, crusty rolls, pills, or eyeglasses; in the rear sat his adjutant 
Bruckner and Press Chief Dietrich. In an accompanying car of the same 
size and color were five strong men of his bodyguard squad and Hitler's 
personal physician, Dr. Brandt. 

As soon as we had traversed the Thuringian Forest and come into 
more thickly settled areas, the difficulties began. Riding through a 
village, we were recognized; but before the people could recover from 
their astonishment we had passed them. "Now watch," Hitler said. "In 
the next village it won t be so easy. The local party group will certainly 
have telephoned ahead by now." Sure enough, when we arrived, the 
streets were full of cheering people. The village policeman was doing 
his best, but the car could advance no faster than a walk. Even after we 
had worked our way out, a few enthusiasts on the open highway let 
down the railroad barrier in order to keep Hitler among them a while 

In this way we made slow progress. When it was time for lunch, we 
stopped at a small inn in Hildburgshausen where years before Hitler 
had had himself appointed police commissioner in order to acquire Ger- 
man citizenship. But no one mentioned this. The innkeeper and his wife 
were beside themselves with excitement. After some difficulty, the 
adjutant managed to elicit from them what they could serve: spaghetti 
with spinach. We waited for a long time; finally the adjutant went to 
take a look in the kitchen. "The women are in such a state that they 
can't tell whether the spaghetti is done." 

Meanwhile, thousands of people were gathering outside chanting 
calls for Hitler. "If only we were out of this," he commented when we 
emerged from the inn. Slowly, under a rain of flowers, we reached the 
medieval gate. Juveniles closed it before our eyes; children climbed on 
the running boards of the car. Hitler had to give autographs. Only then 
would they open the gate. They laughed, and Hitler laughed with them. 

Everywhere in the countryside farmers left their implements, 
women waved. It was a triumphal procession. As the car rolled along, 
Hitler leaned back to me and exclaimed: "Heretofore only one German 
has been hailed like this: Luther. When he rode through the country, 
people gathered from far and wide to cheer him. As they do for me 

This enormous popularity was only too easy to understand. The 
public credited Hitler and no one else with the achievements in economics 
and foreign policy of the period. They more and more regarded him as the 
leader who had made a reality of their deeply rooted longings for a 


powerful, proud, united Germany. Very few were mistrustful at this 
time. And those who occasionally felt doubts rising reassured themselves 
with thoughts of the regime's accomplishments and the esteem it enjoyed 
even in critical foreign countries. 

During these stormy scenes of homage by the populace, which 
certainly affected me as well, there was one person in our car who re- 
fused to be carried away: Hitlers chauffeur of many years, Schreck. I 
heard some of his mutterings: "Folks are dissatisfied because . . . party 
people swellheaded . . . proud, forget where they come from. . . ." After 
his early death an oil painting of Schreck hung in Hitler s private office 
at Obersalzberg side by side with one of Hitlers mother 4 — there was 
none of his father. 

Shortly before we reached Bayreuth, Hitler shifted over to a small 
Mercedes sedan which was driven by his photographer Hoffmann and 
rode to Villa Wahnfried, where Frau Winifred Wagner was expecting 
him. We others went on to Berneck, the nearby spa where Hitler regularly 
spent the night on the drive from Munich to Berlin. In eight hours we had 
covered only a hundred and thirty miles. 

When I learned that Hitler would be staying at Wahnfried until 
quite late, I was in some embarrassment, for next morning we were to 
drive on to Nuremberg where Hitler might very possibly agree to the 
building program proposed by the municipal administration, which had 
its own axes to grind. If so, there was little prospect that my design would 
even be considered, for Hitler never liked to rescind a decision. Under 
the circumstances, I turned to Schreck. I explained my plan for the 
Party Rally area. He promised to tell Hitler about it during the drive and 
to show him the sketch if he reacted favorably. 

Next morning, shortly before we set out, I was called to Hitler s 
suite: "I agree to your plan. We'll discuss it today with Mayor Liebel." 

Two years later Hitler would have come directly to the point in 
dealing with a mayor: "Here is the plan for the Party Rally area; this is 
how we're going to do it." But at that time, in 1935, he did not yet feel 
so completely in command and so spent almost an hour in prefatory 
explanations, before he finally placed my sketch on the table. Naturally 
the mayor found the design excellent, for as an old party man he had 
been trained to concur. 

After my plan had been properly praised, Hitler again began 
feeling his way: The design called for moving the Nuremberg zoo. 
"Can we ask the people of Nuremberg to accept that? They're very 
attached to it, I know. Of course we'll pay for a new and even more 
beautiful zoo." 

The mayor, who was equally alert to protect the interests of his 
city, suggested: "We would have to call a stockholders' meeting, perhaps 
try to buy their shares. . . ." Hitler proved amenable to everything. Out- 

67 ) Architectural Megalomania 

side, Liebel, rubbing his hands, said to one of his aides: "I wonder why 
the Fuehrer spent so much time persuading us? Of course he can have 
the old zoo, and we'll get a new one. The old one was no good anyhow. 
We'll have the finest in the world. They're paying for it, after all." Thus 
the people of Nuremberg at least got their new zoo— the only thing in the 
plan which was ever carried to completion. 

That same day we took the train to Munich. That evening Adjutant 
Bruckner telephoned me: "You and your goddamned plans! Couldn't they 
keep? The Fuehrer didn't close an eye last night, he was so excited. Next 
time have the goodness to ask me first!" 

To build this giant complex an Association for the Nuremberg Party 
Rally Site was created. The Finance Minister of the Reich reluctantly 
assumed the duty of funding the project. Out of some whimsical impulse 
Hitler appointed Minister of Churches Kerrl to take charge of the associa- 
tion, and as the latter's deputy, Martin Bormann, who thus received 
his first important assignment outside the party secretariat. 

The plan called for an expenditure of between seven and eight 
hundred million marks on building, which today would cost three billion 
marks [$750,000,000]— eight years later I would be spending such a sum 
every four days on armaments. 5 Including the camping grounds for 
participants, the tract embraced an area of 16.5 square kilometers (about 
6.5 square miles). Under Kaiser Wilhelm II, incidentally, there had been 
plans for a "Center for German National Festivals" with an area 6600 by 
2000 feet. 

Two years after Hitler had approved it, my design was exhibited as 
a model at the Paris World's Fair of 1937 and won the Grand Prix. At 
the southern end of the complex was the Marchfield; the name was in- 
tended not only as a reference to the war god Mars, but also to the 
month in which Hitler introduced conscription.* Within this enormous 
tract, an area of 3400 by 2300 feet was set aside where the army could 
practice minor maneuvers. By contrast, the grandiose area of the palace 
of Kings Darius I and Xerxes in Persepolis (fifth century b.c.) had embraced 
only 1500 by 900 feet. Stands 48 feet high were to surround the entire 
area, providing seats for a hundred and sixty thousand spectators. Twenty- 
four towers over a hundred and thirty feet in height were to punctuate 
these stands; in the middle was a platform for guests of honor which was to 
be crowned by a sculpture of a woman. In a.d. 64 Nero erected on the 
Capitol a colossal figure 119 feet high. The Statue of Liberty in New York 
is 151 feet high; our statue was to be 46 feet higher. 

To the north, in the direction of the old Nuremberg castle of the 
Hohenzollerns, which could be seen in the distance, the Marchfield 

* It probably also referred to the National Assembly of the Franks, which was 
likewise called the Marchfield. 


opened out into a processional avenue a mile and a quarter long and 264 
feet wide. The army was to march down this avenue in ranks 165 feet 
wide. This avenue was finished before the war and paved with heavy 
granite slabs, strong enough to bear the weight of tanks. The surface was 
roughened to provide a secure footing for the goose-stepping soldiers. On 
the right rose a flight of stairs from which Hitler, flanked by his generals, 
would review such parades. Opposite was a colonnade where the flags 
of the regiments would be displayed. 

This colonnade with its height of only sixty feet was to serve as a 
foil for the "Great Stadium" towering up behind it. Hitler had stipulated 
that the stadium was to hold four hundred thousand spectators. History's 
largest precedent was the Circus Maximus in Rome, built for between 
one hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand persons. Modern sta- 
diums in those days contained about a hundred thousand seats. 

The pyramid of Cheops, with a base of 756 feet and a height of 481 
feet, measured 3,277,300 cubic yards. The Nuremberg stadium would 
have been 1815 feet long and 1518 wide and could have enclosed a 
volume of over 11,100,000 cubic yards, some three times more than the 
pyramid of Cheops. 6 The stadium was to be by far the largest structure 
on the tract and one of the hugest in history. Calculations showed that in 
order to hold the required number of spectators the stands would have 
to be over three hundred feet high. An oval would really have been out 
of the question; the resultant bowl would not only have intensified the 
heat, but produced psychological discomfort. I therefore turned my 
thoughts to the Athenian horseshoe shape. We took a hillside of approxi- 
mately the same shape and smoothed out its irregularities by temporary 
wooden structures; the question was whether sporting events would be 
visible from the upper rows. The results of our study were more positive 
than I had expected. 

Our rough estimate of the costs of the Nuremberg stadium came to 
between two hundred and two hundred and fifty million marks— approxi- 
mately a billion marks [$250,000,000] at present-day construction costs. 
Hitler took this calmly. "That is less than two battleships of the Bismarck 
class. How quickly a warship can be destroyed, and if not, it is scrap-iron 
anyhow in ten years. But this building will stand for centuries. When the 
Finance Minister asks what it will cost, don t give him any answer. Say 
that nobody has any experience with building projects of such size." 
Granite to the value of several million marks was ordered, pink for the 
exteriors, white for the stands. At the site a gigantic pit for the founda- 
tion was dug; during the war it became a picturesque lake, which sug- 
gested the proportions of the structure. 

Farther to the north of the stadium the processional avenue crossed 
an expanse of water in which the buildings would be reflected. Then, 
concluding the complex, came a square, bounded on the right by the 

69 ) Architectural Megalomania 

Kongresshalle, which still stands, and on the left by a "Kulturhalle" meant 
specifically for Hitler s speeches on cultural matters. 

Hitler had appointed me the architect for all these buildings except 
the Kongresshalle, which had been designed in 1933 by Ludwig Ruff. 
He gave me a free hand with plans and execution and participated every 
year in a ceremonial cornerstone laying. However, these cornerstones 
were subsequently moved to the municipal buildings and grounds yard 
to wait until the building had made further progress and they could be 
incorporated in the wall. At the laying of the cornerstone for the stadium 
on September 9, 1937, Hitler solemnly shook hands with me before the 
assembled party bigwigs. "This is the greatest day of your life!" Perhaps 
I was something of a skeptic even then, for I replied: "No, not today, my 
Fuehrer, but only when the building is finished." 

Early in 1939 Hitler, in a speech to construction workers, undertook 
to justify the dimensions of his style: "Why always the biggest? I do this 
to restore to each individual German his self-respect. In a hundred areas 
I want to say to the individual: We are not inferior; on the contrary, we 
are the complete equals of every other nation." 7 

This love for vast proportions was not only tied up with the totali- 
tarian cast of Hitler's regime. Such tendencies, and the urge to demonstrate 
one's strength on all occasions, are characteristic of quickly acquired 
wealth. Thus we find the largest buildings in Greek antiquity in Sicily and 
Asia Minor. It is an interesting corollary that those cities were generally 
ruled by despots. But even in Periclean Athens the statue of Athena Par- 
thenos by Phidias was forty feet high. Moreover, most of the Seven Won- 
ders of the World won their repute by their excessive size: the Temple of 
Diana at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of 
Rhodes, and the Olympian Zeus of Phidias. 

Hitler's demand for huge dimensions, however, involved more than 
he was willing to admit to the workers. He wanted the biggest of every- 
thing to glorify his works and magnify his pride. These monuments were 
an assertion of his claim to world dominion long before he dared to 
voice any such intention even to his closest associates. 

I, too, was intoxicated by the idea of using drawings, money, and 
construction firms to create stone witnesses to history, and thus affirm our 
claim that our works would survive for a thousand years. But I found 
Hitler's excitement rising whenever I could show him that at least in size 
we had "beaten" the other great buildings of history. To be sure, he never 
gave vent to these heady feelings. He was sparing in his use of high- 
sounding words to me. Possibly at such moments he actually felt a certain 
awe; but it was directed toward himself and toward his own greatness, 
which he himself had willed and projected into eternity. 


At the same Party Rally of 1937 at which Hitler laid the cornerstone 
of the stadium, his last speech ended with the ringing words: "The Ger- 
man nation has after all acquired its Germanic Reich." At dinner after- 
ward Hitler s adjutant, Bruckner, reported that at these words Field 
Marshal von Blomberg had burst into tears from sheer emotion. Hitler 
took this as evidence of the army's assent to what was being promised in 
this slogan. 

At the time there was a great deal of talk to the effect that this mys- 
terious dictum would be ushering in a new era in foreign policy; that it 
would bear much fruit. I had an idea of what it meant, for shortly before 
the speech was given, Hitler one day abruptly stopped me on the stairs 
to his apartment, let his entourage go on ahead, and said: "We will create 
a great empire. All the Germanic peoples will be included in it. It will 
begin in Norway and extend to northern Italy. I myself must carry this 
out. If only I keep my healthr 

That was still a relatively restrained formulation. In the spring of 
1937 Hitler visited me at my Berlin showrooms. We stood alone in front 
of the nearly seven-foot high model of the stadium for four hundred 
thousand people. It had been set up precisely at eye level. Every detail 
had been rendered, and powerful spotlights illuminated it, so that with 
only a little imagination we could conceive the effect of this structure. 
Alongside the model were the plans, pinned up on boards. Hitler turned 
to these. We talked about the Olympic Games, and I pointed out, as I 
had done several times before, that my athletic field did not have the 
prescribed Olympic proportions. Without any change of tone, as if it 
were a matter settled beyond the possibility of discussion, Hitler ob- 
served: "No matter. In 1940 the Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo. 
But thereafter they will take place in Germany for all time to come, in 
this stadium. And then we will determine the measurements of the 
athletic field." 

According to our carefully worked out schedule this stadium was 
supposed to be completed in time for the Party Rally of 1945. . . . 


The Greatest Assignment 

Hitler was pacing back and forth in the garden at obersalzberg. 
"I really don't know what I should do. It is a terribly difficult decision. I 
would by far prefer to join the English. But how often in history the 
English have proved perfidious. If I go with them, then everything is 
over for good between Italy and us. Afterward the English will drop me, 
and we'll sit between two stools." In the autumn of 1935 he made fre- 
quent remarks of this sort to his intimate circle, which as always had 
accompanied him to Obersalzberg. At this point Mussolini had begun his 
invasion of Abyssinia, accompanied by massive air raids; the Negus had 
fled and a new Roman Empire proclaimed. 

Ever since Hitler had made his unfortunate visit to Italy in June 1934, 
he distrusted the Italians and Italian policy, though not Mussolini. Now 
that he saw his doubts reinforced, Hitler recalled an item in Hindenburg's 
political testament, to the effect that Germany should never again ally 
herself with Italy. Under England's leadership the League of Nations im- 
posed economic sanctions on Italy. This was the moment, Hitler remarked, 
when he had to decide whether he should ally himself with the English 
or the Italians. The decision must be taken in terms of the long view, he 
said. He spoke of his readiness to guarantee England's empire in return 
for a global arrangement— a favorite idea of his, which he was to voice 
often. But circumstances left him no choice. They forced him to decide in 
favor of Mussolini. In spite of the ideological relationship and the devel- 



oping personal tie, that was no easy decision. For days afterward Hitler 
would remark in somber tones that the situation had forced him to take 
this step. He was all the more gratified when it turned out a few weeks 
later that the sanctions as ultimately voted were relatively mild. From 
this Hitler concluded that both England and France were loath to take 
any risks and anxious to avoid any danger. Actions of his which later 
seemed reckless followed directly from such observations. The Western 
governments had, as he commented at the time, proved themselves weak 
and indecisive. 

He found this view confirmed when the German troops marched into 
the demilitarized Rhineland on March 7, 1936. This was an open breach 
of the Treaty of Locarno and might have provoked military counter- 
measures on the part of the Allies. Nervously, Hitler waited for the first 
reactions. The special train in which we rode to Munich on the evening 
of that day was charged, compartment after compartment, with the tense 
atmosphere that emanated from the Fuehrer's section. At one station a 
message was handed into the car. Hitler sighed with relief: "At last! The 
King of England will not intervene. He is keeping his promise. That 
means it can all go well." He seemed not to be aware of the meager influ- 
ence the British Crown has upon Parliament and the government. Never- 
theless, military intervention would have probably required the King's 
approval, and perhaps this was what Hitler meant to imply. In any case, 
he was intensely anxious, and even later, when he was waging war against 
almost the entire world, he always termed the remilitarization of the 
Rhineland the most daring of all his undertakings. "We had no army 
worth mentioning; at that time it would not even have had the fighting 
strength to maintain itself against the Poles. If the French had taken any 
action, we would have been easily defeated; our resistance would have 
been over in a few days. And what air force we had then was ridiculous. 
A few Junkers 52's from Lufthansa, and not even enough bombs for them." 
After the abdication of King Edward VIII, later, the Duke of Windsor, 
Hitler frequently referred to his apparent friendliness toward National 
Socialist Germany: "I am certain that through him permanent friendly 
relations with England could have been achieved. If he had stayed, 
everything would have been different. His abdication was a severe loss 
for us." Whereupon he would launch into remarks about sinister anti- 
German forces who were deciding the course of British policy. His regret 
at not having made an ally out of England ran like a red thread through 
all the years of his rule. It increased when the Duke of Windsor and his 
wife visited Hitler at Obersalzberg on October 22, 1937, and allegedly had 
good words to say about the achievements of the Third Reich. 

A few months after the uncontested remilitarization of the Rhine- 
land, Hitler exulted over the harmonious atmosphere that prevailed dur- 
ing the Olympic Games. International animosity toward National Socialist 

73 ) The Greatest Assignment 

Germany was plainly a thing of the past, he thought. He gave orders that 
everything should be done to convey the impression of a peace-minded 
Germany to the many prominent foreign guests. He himself followed the 
athletic contests with great excitement. Each of the German victories— 
and there were a surprising number of these— made him happy, but he 
was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored 
American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from 
the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were 
stronger than those of civilized whites. They represented unfair competi- 
tion and hence must be excluded from future games. Hitler was also 
jolted by the jubilation of the Berliners when the French team filed 
solemnly into the Olympic Stadium. They had marched past Hitler with 
raised arms and thereby sent the crowd into transports of enthusiasm. But 
in the prolonged applause Hitler sensed a popular mood, a longing for 
peace and reconciliation with Germany's western neighbor. If I am cor- 
rectly interpreting Hitler's expression at the time, he was more disturbed 
than pleased by the Berliners' cheers. 

In the spring of 1936 Hitler took me with him to inspect a stretch of 
the autobahn. In conversation he dropped the remark: "I have one more 
building assignment to give out. The greatest of all." There was only this 
one hint. He did not explain. 

Occasionally, it was true, he outlined a few of his ideas for the re- 
building of Berlin, but it was not until June that Hitler showed me a 
plan for the center of the city. "I patiently explained to the mayor why 
this new avenue must be a hundred and thirty yards wide, and now he 
presents me with one only a hundred yards wide." A few weeks later 
Mayor Lippert, an old party member and editor in chief of the Berlin 
Angriff, was summoned again; but nothing had changed; the avenue was 
still a hundred yards in width. Lippert could not work up any enthusiasm 
for Hitler s architectural ideas. At first Hitler was merely annoyed, remark- 
ing that Lippert was petty, incapable of governing a metropolis, and even 
more incapable of understanding the historical importance he planned to 
give it. As time wore on, these remarks mounted in intensity: "Lippert is 
an incompetent, an idiot, a failure, a zero." What was astonishing, how- 
ever, was that Hitler never showed his dissatisfaction in the mayor's 
presence and never tried to win him over to his views. Even in this early 
period he sometimes shied away from the wearisome business of explain- 
ing reasons. After four years of this sort of thing, and right after a walk 
from the Berghof to the teahouse, during which he once more brooded 
over Lippert's stupidity, he telephoned Goebbels and categorically or- 
dered him to replace his mayor. 

Until the summer of 1936 Hitler had evidently meant to have his 
plans for Berlin carried out by the municipal government. Now he sent 


for me and tersely gave me the assignment: "There's nothing to be done 
with the Berlin city government. From now on you make the plans. Take 
this drawing along. When you have something ready, show it to me. As 
you know, I always have time for such things." 

As Hitler told me, his conception of an enormously wide avenue 
went back to the early twenties, when he began to study the various 
plans for Berlin, found them all inadequate, and was impelled to develop 
his own ideas.* Even then, he said, he had decided to shift the Anhalter 
and Potsdam railroad stations to the south of Tempelhof Field. This 
would release broad strips of trackage in the center of the city, so that 
with only a little further clearing, starting from the Siegesallee, a magnifi- 
cent avenue lined with impressive buildings could be built, three miles 

To be sure, all the architectural proportions of Berlin would be shat- 
tered by two buildings that Hitler envisaged on this new avenue. On the 
northern side, near the Reichstag, he wanted a huge meeting hall, a 
domed structure into which St. Peter s Cathedral in Rome would have 
fitted several times over. The diameter of the dome was to be eight 
hundred twenty-five feet. Beneath it, in an area of approximately four 
hundred and ten thousand square feet, there would be room for more 
than a hundred and fifty thousand persons to assemble standing. 

During these first discussions, when our general views on the city 
plan were still fluid, Hitler thought it necessary to explain to me that the 
size of meeting halls should be governed by medieval conceptions. The 
cathedral of Ulm, for example, had thirty thousand square feet of area; 
but when the building was begun in the fourteenth century only fifteen 
thousand people lived in Ulm, including children and the aged. "There- 
fore they could never fill the space. Compared to that, a hall for a 
hundred fifty thousand persons could be called small for a city of millions 
like Berlin." 

To balance this structure Hitler wanted an arch of triumph four 
hundred feet high. "At least that will be a worthy monument to our dead 
of the world war. The names of our dead, all 1,800,000 of them, will be 
chiseled in the granite. What a paltry affair the Berlin monument put up 
by the Republic is. How wretched and undignified for a great nation." He 
handed me two sketches drawn on small cards. "I made these drawings 
ten years ago. I've always saved them, because I never doubted that some 
day I would build these two edifices. And this is how we will carry it 
out now." 

* He was probably referring to the plans by Martin Machler which were shown 
in 1927 at a major art exhibit in Berlin. As a matter of fact these bear a striking 
resemblance to Hitler's ideas. I did not become acquainted with them until I read 
Alfred Schinz's book, Berlin: Stadtschicksal und Stadtehau (Braunschweig, 1964) 
in Spandau prison. 

75 ) The Greatest Assignment 

The proportions of the drawings showed, Hitler explained, that even 
then he had intended a diameter of more than six hundred and fifty feet 
for the dome and a height of more than three hundred thirty feet for the 
arch of triumph. What is startling is less the grandiosity of the project 
than the obsessiveness with which he had been planning triumphant mon- 
umental buildings when there was not a shred of hope that they could 
ever be built. And today it strikes me as rather sinister that in the midst 
of peacetime, while continually proclaiming his desire for international 
reconciliation, he was planning buildings expressive of an imperial glory 
which could be won only by war. 

"Berlin is a big city, but not a real metropolis. Look at Paris, the 
most beautiful city in the world. Or even Vienna. Those are cities with 
grand style. Berlin is nothing but an unregulated accumulation of build- 
ings. We must surpass Paris and Vienna." These were some of the points 
he made during the series of discussions that now began. Most of the time 
we conferred in his apartment in the Chancellery. As a rule, he would 
have all other guests leave, so we could talk seriously. 

At an earlier stage in his life he had carefully studied the plans of 
Vienna and Paris, and he revealed an amazing memory for these. In 
Vienna he admired the architectural complex of Ringstrasse with its great 
buildings, the Rathaus, the Parliament, the Concert Hall, or the Hofburg 
and the twin museums. He could draw this part of the city in correct pro- 
portions and had absorbed the lesson that impressive public buildings, like 
monuments, must be planned to be freely visible from all sides. He ad- 
mired these buildings even if they did not directly coincide with his 
views, like the neo-Gothic Rathaus. "Here Vienna is worthily repre- 
sented. By contrast, consider the Berlin Rathaus. We will give Berlin a 
more beautiful one than Vienna's, no doubt about that." 

He was even more impressed by the vast rebuilding project and the 
new boulevards that Georges E. Haussmann had built in Paris between 
1853 and 1870 at an expenditure of 2.5 million gold francs. He regarded 
Haussmann as the greatest city planner in history, but hoped that I 
would surpass him. The struggles that Haussmann had waged for years 
led him to expect that the plans for Berlin would also encounter opposi- 
tion. Only his authority, he believed, would successfully put the work 

Initially, however, he found a cunning way to bring the municipal 
administration around; for the city was less than eager to accept Hitlers 
plans when it became evident that the considerable expense of clearing 
ground and building the avenues, the public gardens, and the rapid- 
transit railways would fall to the city. 'We'll let them think we're con- 
sidering building our new capital on the Muritzsee in Mecklenburg. 
You'll see how the Berliners come to life at the threat that the federal 
government may move out/' he remarked. And in fact a few hints of this 


sort sufficed; the city fathers soon proved ready to foot the costs of the 
architectural planning. Nevertheless, for a few months Hitler was rather 
taken with this plan for a German Washington, and liked to talk about 
creating an ideal city out of nothingness. In the end, however, he rejected 
the idea: "Artificially created capitals always remain lifeless. Think of 
Washington or Canberra. In our own Karlsruhe, too, no life springs up 
because the dull bureaucrats are left to themselves there/' In connection 
with this episode, I am not certain to this day whether Hitler was play- 
acting as well, or whether for a while he was not somewhat converted to 
this idea of a new city. 

His plans for Berlin were inspired by the Champs Elysees with its 
Arc de Triomphe, a hundred and sixty feet high, begun by Napoleon I 
in 1805. This was the model for his great arch and for the width of his 
avenue as well: "The Champs Elysees is three hundred and thirty feet 
wide. In any case we'll make our avenue seventy-odd feet wider. When 
the far-sighted Great Elector laid out Unter den Linden in the seventeenth 
century with a width of two hundred feet, he could no more have fore- 
seen present-day traffic than Haussmann when he designed the Champs 

To carry out this project, Hitler had State Secretary Lammers issue an 
ordinance giving me extensive powers and making me his direct subordi- 
nate. Neither the Minister of the Interior nor the Mayor of Berlin nor the 
Gauleiter of Berlin, Goebbels, had any authority over me. In fact, Hitler 
explicitly exempted me from having to inform the city government or the 
party of my plans. 1 When I told Hitler that I preferred to carry out this 
commission also as a free-lance architect, he immediately consented. State 
Secretary Lammers invented a legal device which took account of my 
distaste for a bureaucratic position. My office was not treated as a part of 
the government, but as a large, independent research institute. 

On January 30, 1937, I was officially commissioned to carry out Hit- 
lers "greatest architectural task." For a long time he searched for a re- 
sounding enough title for me. Finally Funk hit on a good one: "Inspector 
General of Buildings for the Renovation of the Federal Capital." In pre- 
senting me with the certification of my appointment, Hitler manifested a 
kind of shyness which sometimes came over him. After lunch he pressed 
the document into my hand: "Do a good job." By a generous interpreta- 
tion of my contract I thereafter held the formal rank of a state secretary 
of the Reich government. At the age of thirty-two I could sit beside Dr. 
Todt in the third row of the government benches, was entitled to a place 
at the lower end of the table at official state dinners and automatically re- 
ceived from every foreign state visitor a decoration of fixed rank. I also 
received a monthly salary of fifteen hundred marks, an insignificant sum 
compared to my architect's fees. 

In February, moreover, Hitler bluntly ordered the Minister of Educa- 

77 ) The Greatest Assignment 

tion to clear out the venerable Academy of Arts on Pariser Platz, so that 
my offices— called GBI for Generalbauinspektor (Inspector General of 
Buildings)— could be installed there. He chose this building because he 
could reach it through the intervening ministerial gardens without being 
seen by the public. Soon he made ample use of this convenience. 

Hitler's city plan had one major fault: It had not been thought 
through to the end. He had become so set on the notion of a Berlin 
Champs Elysees two and a half times the length of the original in Paris 
that he entirely lost sight of the structure of existing Berlin, a city of four 
million people. For a city planner such an avenue could only have a 
meaning and function as the core of a general reorganization of the city. 
For Hitler, however, it was a display piece and an end in itself. Moreover, 
it did not solve the Berlin railroad problem. The huge wedge of tracks 
which divided the city into two parts would merely be shifted a few 
miles to the south. 

Ministerial Director Leibbrand of the Reich Traffic Ministry, the 
chief planner for the German railroads, saw in Hitler s plans an oppor- 
tunity for a large-scale reorganization of the entire railroad network in 
the capital. Together, we found an almost ideal solution. The capacity of 
the Berlin suburban railroad, the Ringbahn, would be expanded by two 
tracks, so that long-distance traffic could also be tunneled into it. We 
could thus have a central station in the north and another in the south, 
which would do away with the need for the various Berlin terminals. The 
cost of the new arrangement was estimated at between one and two bil- 
lion marks. 2 

This would give us the old tracks to the south for a prolongation of 
our avenue and a large open area in the heart of the city for new housing 
for four hundred thousand persons. 3 We could do the same to the north 
as well, and by eliminating the Lehrter Station open up new residential 
districts. The only trouble with this plan was that neither Hitler nor I 
wanted to give up the domed hall, which was to form the terminus of the 
magnificent avenue. The vast square in front of the hall was to remain free 
of traffic. So the plan, which would also have been a boon to traffic, was 
sacrificed on the altar of ostentation, and the flow of north-south traffic 
considerably hampered by a detour. 

It was an obvious idea to continue the existing two hundred foot wide 
thoroughfare to the west, Heerstrasse, with the same width in an easterly 
direction-a project that was partly realized after 1945 by the extension of 
the former Frankfurter Allee. This axis, like the north-south axis, would 
be continued to its natural terminus, the ring formed by the autobahn, so 
that new urban areas could also be opened up in the eastern part of Ber- 
lin. In this way, even though we were razing the heart of the city, we 
would be able to provide room for almost double the city's population. 4 


Both axes were to be lined by tall office buildings which would be 
scaled down at either end, passing by degrees into lower and lower 
buildings until an area was reached of private homes surrounded by 
considerable greenery. By this system I hoped to avoid the usual strangu- 
lation of the city center. This plan, which arose necessarily out of my axial 
structure, led the areas of greenery along the radii deep into the heart of 
the city. 

Beyond the autobahn, at the four terminal points of the two great 
spokes, land was reserved for airports. In addition, the Rangsdorfer 
Lake was expected to serve as landing field for a water airport, for in 
those days a greater future was envisaged for the seaplane. Tempelhof 
Airfield, situated much too close to the prospective new center of the 
city, would be turned into an amusement park in the style of Copen- 
hagen's Tivoli. In years to come, we considered, the intersecting axes 
would be supplemented by five rings and seventeen radial thorough- 
fares, each of which was to be two hundred feet wide. For the present, 
however, we limited ourselves to determining where the new rows of 
buildings were to go. To connect the midpoint of the axes and part 
of the rings and to relieve traffic in the streets, rapid-transit subways 
were planned. In the west, bordering on the Olympic Stadium, we plan- 
ned a new university quarter, for most of the buildings of the old Fried- 
rich Wilhelm University on Unter den Linden were antiquated and in 
deplorable condition. To the north of the new university district a new 
medical quarter was to be established, with hospitals, laboratories, and 
medical schools. The banks of the Spree between the museum island and 
the Reichstag— a neglected area full of junkyards and small factories- 
were also to be reconstructed and additions and new buildings for the 
Berlin museums undertaken. 

The land beyond the ring formed by the autobahn was to be set 
aside for recreation purposes. The typical Brandenburg pine forest of the 
area had been given into the charge of a high official in the Forestry 
Bureau who took his orders from me. Instead of pines, a woodland of 
deciduous trees was to be established here. After the model of the Bois 
de Boulogne, Grunewald was to be provided with hiking paths, rest 
areas, restaurants, and athletic fields for the capital's millions. The work 
had already begun. I had tens of thousands of deciduous trees planted, 
in order to restore the old mixed forest which Frederick the Great had 
cut for lumber to finance the Silesian War. Of the whole vast project for 
the reshaping of Berlin, these deciduous trees are all that have remained. 

In the course of the work a new urban concept emerged from Hitler's 
initially pointless plan for a grand avenue. In the light of all this, his 
original idea seemed relatively insignificant. At least where urban re- 
newal was concerned, I had gone far beyond Hitler's megalomaniacal 
notions. I imagine that this had rarely happened to him in the course of 
his life. He went along with all these expansions of the original idea and 

79 ) The Greatest Assignment 

gave me a free hand, but he could not really work up much enthusiasm 
for this part of the project. He would look at the plans, but really only 
glance at them, and after a few minutes would ask with palpable bore- 
dom: "Where do you have the plans for the grand avenue?" Then he 
would revel in visions of ministries, office buildings and showrooms for 
major German corporations, a new opera house, luxury hotels, and amuse- 
ment palaces— and I gladly joined in these visions. Nevertheless, I con- 
sidered these official buildings as subsidiary to the total plan; Hitler 
did not. His passion for building for eternity left him without a spark of 
interest in traffic arrangements, residential areas, and parks. He was in- 
different to the social dimension. 

Hess, on the other hand, was interested only in the residential struc- 
tures and scarcely took notice of the representational aspect of our plans. 
At the end of one of his visits he chided me for putting too much empha- 
sis on the latter. I promised him that for every brick used for these osten- 
tatious buildings, I would use one for a residential structure. Hitler was 
rather annoyed when he heard of this bargain; he spoke of the urgency 
of his requirements but did not cancel our arrangement. 

It has been generally assumed that I was Hitler's chief architect, to 
whom all others were subordinate. This was not so. The architects for 
the replanning of Munich and Linz had similar powers bestowed upon 
them. In the course of time Hitler consulted an ever-growing number of 
architects for special tasks. Before the war began, there must have been 
ten or twelve. 

When buildings were in question, Hitler repeatedly displayed his 
ability to grasp a sketch quickly and to combine the floor plan and render- 
ings into a three-dimensional conception. Despite all his government busi- 
ness and although he was often dealing with anywhere from ten to fifteen 
large buildings in different cities, whenever the drawings were presented 
to him again— often after an interval of months— he immediately found his 
bearings and could remember what changes he had asked for. Those who 
assumed that a request or a suggestion had long since been forgotten 
quickly learned otherwise. 

In these conferences he usually behaved with restraint and civility. 
He asked for changes amiably and without any note of insult— entirely in 
contrast to the domineering tone he took toward his political associates. 
Convinced that the architect should be responsible for his building, he 
encouraged the architect to do the talking, not the Gauleiter or Reichs- 
leiter who accompanied him. For he did not want any nonprofessional 
higher authority snarling up the explanations. If the architect's ideas ran 
counter to his own, Hitler was not stubborn: "Yes, you're right, that's 

The result was that I too was left with the feeling of creative inde- 
pendence. I frequently had differences of opinion with Hitler, but I can- 
not recall a single case in which he forced me as the architect to adopt his 


view. This comparatively equal relationship is the reason why later on, as 
Minister of Armaments, I assumed greater initiative than the majority of 
ministers and field marshals. 

Hitler reacted obstinately and ungraciously only when he sensed a 
mute opposition based on antagonistic principles. Thus Professor Bonatz, 
the teacher of a whole generation of architects, received no more com- 
missions after he had criticized Troost's new buildings on Munich's 
Konigsplatz. Bonatz was in such disfavor that even Todt did not dare 
consult him for the building of a few bridges on the autobahn. Only my 
intervening with Frau Troost brought Bonatz back into currency. "Why 
shouldn't he build bridges?" she remarked to Hitler. "He's very good on 
technical structures." Her word was weighty enough, and thereafter 
Bonatz built autobahn bridges. 

Hitler declared again and again: "How I wish I had been an archi- 
tect." And when I responded: "But then I would have no client," he would 
say: "Oh, you, you would have made your way in any case!" I sometimes 
ask myself whether Hitler would have forsaken his political career if in 
the early twenties he had met a wealthy client willing to employ him as 
architect. But at bottom, I think, his sense of political mission and his 
passion for architecture were always inseparable. It seems to me that 
this theory is borne out by the two sketches he made around 1925, when 
at the age of thirty-six his political career had been virtually wrecked— 
for certainly it must then have seemed a wild absurdity that he would 
ever be a political leader who could crown his success with a triumphal 
arch and a domed hall. 

The German Olympic Committee was thrown into a quandary when 
State Secretary Pfundtner of the Ministry of the Interior showed Hitler 
its first plans for the rebuilding of the Olympic Stadium. Otto March, the 
architect, had designed a concrete structure with glass partition walls, 
similar to the Vienna Stadium. Hitler went to inspect the site and came 
back in a state of anger and agitation. Having been summoned to discuss 
some plans with him, I was present when he curtly informed State Secre- 
tary Pfundtner to cancel the Olympic Games. They could not take place 
without his presence, he said, since the Chief of State must open them. 
But he would never set foot inside a modern glass box like that. 

Overnight I made a sketch showing how the steel skeleton already 
built could be clad in natural stone and have more massive cornices 
added. The glass partitions were eliminated, and Hitler was content. He 
saw to the financing of the increased costs; Professor March agreed to 
the changes, and the Olympic Games were held in Berlin after all— 
although I was never sure whether Hitler would actually have carried 
out his threat or whether it was merely a flash of pique, which he often 
used to get his way. 

81 ) The Greatest Assignment 

Hitler also abruptly threatened withdrawal from the Paris World's 
Fair of 1937, although the invitation had already been accepted and the 
site for the German pavilion fixed. He strongly disliked all the sketches he 
was shown. The Ministry of Economics thereupon asked me for a design. 
The Soviet Russian and German pavilions were to be placed directly op- 
posite one another on the fairgrounds; the French directors of the fair had 
deliberately arranged this confrontation. While looking over the site in 
Paris, I by chance stumbled into a room containing the secret sketch of 
the Soviet pavilion. A sculptured pair of figures thirty-three feet tall, on a 
high platform, were striding triumphantly toward the German pavilion. 
I therefore designed a cubic mass, also elevated on stout pillars, which 
seemed to be checking this onslaught, while from the cornice of my tower 
an eagle with the swastika in its claws looked down on the Russian sculp- 
tures. I received a gold medal for the building; so did my Soviet col- 

At the dedication dinner for our pavilion I met the French ambassa- 
dor to Berlin, Andre Fran9ois-Poncet. He proposed that I exhibit my 
works in Paris in exchange for a show of modern French painting in Ber- 
lin. French architecture was lagging, he commented, "but in painting you 
can learn from us." At the next opportunity I told Hitler of this proposal, 
which might open the way for me to win an international reputation. 
Hitler passed over the ambassador's unwelcome comment in silence, but 
for the moment said neither yes nor no. The upshot was that I could never 
bring up the subject again. 

During those days in Paris I saw the Palais de Chaillot and the Palais 
des Musees d'Art Moderne, as well as the Musee des Travaux Publics, 
then still being built, which had been designed by the famous avant- 
gardist August Perret. It surprised me that France also favored neo- 
classicism for her public buildings. It has often been asserted that this 
style is characteristic of the architecture of totalitarian states. That is not 
at all true. Rather, it was characteristic of the era and left its impress 
upon Washington, London, and Paris as well as Rome, Moscow, and our 
plans for Berlin. 5 

We had obtained some extra French currency. My wife and I drove 
by car through France with some friends. Slowly, we toured southward, 
stopping at castles and cathedrals on the way. We reached Carcassonne 
and found it highly stirring and romantic, although it was merely one of 
the most utilitarian fortifications of the Middle Ages, as typical of its time 
as an atomic shelter is of ours. In the citadel hotel we enjoyed an old 
French red wine and decided to linger in the region for a few days more. 
In the evening I was called to the telephone. I had thought myself safe in 
this remote corner of France from Hitler's adjutants, all the more so since 
nobody knew our destination. 

For reasons of security and control, however, the French police had 


checked our movements. At any rate, in response to an inquiry from 
Obersalzberg they were able to say at once where we were. Adjutant 
Bruckner was on the phone: "You're to come to the Fuehrer by tomorrow 
noon." I objected that it would take me two and a half days to drive back. 
"A conference has been set for tomorrow afternoon, ,, Bruckner replied, 
"and the Fuehrer insists on your presence." I tried one more feeble pro- 
test. "Just a moment .... Yes, the Fuehrer knows where you are, but you 
must be here tomorrow." 

I was wretched, angry, and perplexed. Lengthy telephone calls with 
Hitlers pilot produced the news that the Fuehrers private plane could 
not land in France. But a place would be obtained for me on a German 
cargo plane that was due for a stopover in Marseilles, on a flight from 
Africa, at six o'clock in the morning. Hitlers special plane would then take 
me from Stuttgart to Aiming Airport near Berchtesgaden. 

That same night we set out on the drive to Marseilles. For a few 
minutes we looked at the Roman buildings in Aries, which had been the 
actual goal of our journey, by moonlight. At two o'clock in the morning 
we reached a hotel in Marseilles. Three hours later I was off to the air- 
port, and in the afternoon I presented myself, as ordered, to Hitler in 
Obersalzberg. "Oh yes, I'm sorry, Herr Speer, I've postponed the confer- 
ence. I wanted to have your opinion on a suspension bridge for Ham- 
burg." Dr. Todt had been supposed to show him the design for a mam- 
moth bridge that would surpass San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. 
Since construction was not due to begin until the nineteen-forties, Hitler 
might easily have let me have another week's vacation. 

Another time I had fled to the Zugspitze with my wife when the 
usual telephone call from the adjutant reached me: "You're to come to 
the Fuehrer. Dinner tomorrow afternoon in the Osteria." He cut off my 
objections: "No, it's urgent." In the Osteria, Hitler greeted me with: "Why, 
how nice that you've come to dine with us. What, you were sent for? I 
merely asked yesterday: I wonder where Speer is? But you know, it serves 
you right. What's this about going skiing with all you have to do?" 

Von Neurath displayed more backbone. Once when Hitler told his 
adjutant late one evening: "I'd like to talk to the Foreign Minister," he 
received the reply: "The Foreign Minister has already gone to bed."— 
'Tell them he's to be waked when I want to talk to him." Another tele- 
phone call; the adjutant returned discomfited: "The Foreign Minister says 
he will be available in the morning; he's tired now and wants to sleep." 

Faced with such resolution, Hitler could only give up, but he was in 
bad humor for the rest of the evening. Moreover, he could never forget 
such defiance and took revenge at the first opportunity. 



There is a special trap for every holder of power, whether the 
director of a company, the head of a state, or the ruler of a dictatorship. 
His favor is so desirable to his subordinates that they will sue for it by 
every means possible. Servility becomes endemic among his entourage, 
who compete among themselves in their show of devotion. This in turn 
exercises a sway upon the ruler, who becomes corrupted in his turn. 

The key to the quality of the man in power is how he reacts to 
this situation. I have observed a number of industrialists and military 
men who knew how to fend off this danger. Where power has been exer- 
cised over generations, a kind of hereditary incorruptibility grows up. 
Only a few individuals among those around Hitler, such as Fritz Todt, 
withstood the temptation to sycophancy. Hitler himself put up no visible 
resistance to the evolution of a court. 

The special conditions of his style of rule led Hitler, especially after 
1937, into increasing isolation. Added to that was his inability to make 
human contacts. Among his intimates we sometimes spoke of the change 
which was more and more marked in him. Heinrich Hoffmann had just 
put out a new edition of his book, Hitler, wie ihn keiner kennt ( The Hitler 
Nobody Knows). The old edition had to be withdrawn because of a pic- 
ture showing Hitler amicably together with Roehm, whom he was shortly 
afterward to kill. Hitler himself selected the new photos. They showed a 
casual, good-natured private individual in leather shorts, in a rowboat, 



stretched out on meadows, hiking, surrounded by enthusiastic young 
people, or in artists' studios. He was always seen relaxed, friendly, and 
accessible. The book proved to be Hoffmanns greatest success. But it 
was already out of date by the time it was published. For the genial, 
relaxed Hitler whom I too had known in the early thirties had become, 
even to his intimate entourage, a forbidding despot with few human 

In the Ostertal, a remote mountain valley in the Bavarian Alps, I had 
located a small hunting lodge, big enough to set up drawing boards, 
which with a bit of crowding could accommodate my family and a 
few associates. There, in the spring of 1935, we worked away at my plans 
for Berlin. That was a happy period for my work and for the family. 
But one day I made a crucial error; I told Hitler about this idyll. His 
response was: "Why, you can have all that and more near me. I'll put 
the Bechstein house* at your disposal. There's ample room for your office 
there in the conservatory." (At the end of May 1937 we moved from the 
Bechstein house into a studio building which Hitler had Bormann build 
from my design.) Thus I became the fourth "Obersalzberger," along 
with Hitler, Goering, and Bormann. 

Naturally I was happy to be granted so obvious a distinction and be 
admitted to the most intimate circle. But I soon came to realize that the 
change had not been exactly advantageous. From the solitary mountain 
valley we passed into an area guarded by a high barbed-wire fence 
which could be entered only after identity checks at two gates. It was 
reminiscent of an open-air enclosure for wild animals. Curiosity-seekers 
were always trying to catch a glimpse of some of the prominent inhabitants 
of the mountain. 

Bormann was the real master of Obersalzberg. He forcibly bought up 
centuries-old farms and had the buildings torn down. The same was 
done to the numerous votive chapels, despite the objections of the 
parishes. He also confiscated state forests, until the private area reached 
from the top of the mountain, which was some sixty-four hundred feet 
high, to the valley at an altitude of two thousand feet, and embraced 
an area of 2.7 square miles. The fence around the inner area was almost 
two miles long, around the outer area nine miles long. 

With total insensitivity to the natural surroundings, Bormann laid 
out a network of roads through this magnificient landscape. He turned 
forest paths, hitherto carpeted by pine needles and penetrated by roots, 
into paved promenades. A barracks, a vast garage building, a hotel for 
Hitler's guests, a new manor house, a complex for the constantly growing 
number of employees, sprang up as rapidly as in a suddenly fashionable 
resort. Dormitory barracks for hundreds of construction workers clung 

* A villa near Hitler's residence at Obersalzberg, formerly owned by his friends, 
the Bechsteins. 

85 ) Obersalzberg 

to the slopes; trucks loaded with building materials rumbled along the 
roads. At night the various building sites glowed with light, for work 
went on in two shifts, and occasionally detonations thundered through 
the valley. 

On the top of Hitlers private mountain Bormann erected a house 
that was luxuriously furnished in a somewhat rusticated ocean-liner 
style. You reached it by a precipitous road that ended in an elevator 
blasted into the rock. Bormann squandered between twenty and thirty 
million marks merely on the access route to this eyrie, which Hitler 
visited only a few times. Cynics in Hitler's entourage remarked: "Bor- 
mann has created a gold-rush town atmosphere. Only he doesn't find 
any, he spends it." Hitler regretted the hubbub but commented: "It's 
Bormann's doing; I don't want to interfere." Another time he said: 
"When it's all finished I'll look for a quiet valley and build another small 
wooden house there like the first." It never was finished. Bormann con- 
ceived a never-ending succession of new roads and buildings, and when 
the war finally broke out he began building underground quarters for 
Hitler and his entourage. 

The gigantic installations on the mountain were, in spite of Hitler's 
occasional sarcasms about the tremendous effort and expenditure, char- 
acteristic of the change in the Fuehrer's style of life and also indicative 
of his tendency to withdraw more and more from the wider world around 
him. Fear of assassination cannot explain it, for almost daily he allowed 
thousands of people to enter the protected area to pay homage to him. 
His entourage considered such behavior more dangerous than spontaneous 
strolls on public forest paths. 

In the summer of 1935 Hitler had decided to enlarge his modest 
country house into one more suitable for his public duties, to be known 
as the Berghof. He paid for the project out of his own money, but that 
was nothing but a gesture, since Bormann drew upon other sources for 
the subsidiary buildings, sums disproportionately greater than the amount 
Hitler himself provided. 

Hitler did not just sketch the plans for the Berghof. He borrowed 
drawing board, T-square, and other implements from me to draw the 
ground plan, renderings, and cross sections of his building to scale, 
refusing any help with the matter. There were only two other designs 
on which Hitler expended the personal care that he applied to his 
Obersalzberg house: that of the new Reich war flag and his own standard 
as Chief of State. 

Most architects will put a wide variety of ideas down on paper, and 
see which lends itself best to further development. It was characteristic 
of Hitler that he regarded his first inspiration as intuitively right and 
drew it with little hesitation. Afterward, he introduced only small re- 
touchings to eliminate glaring defects. 

The old house was preserved within the new one, whose living room 


joined the old through a large opening. The resultant ground plan was 
most impractical for the reception of official visitors. Their staffs had to 
be content with an unprepossessing entry hall which also led to the 
toilets, stairwell, and the large dining room. 

During official conferences Hitler's private guests were banished 
to the upper floor. But since the stairs led down to the entry hall, private 
visitors had to be cleared by a guard before being allowed to go through 
the room and leave the house for a walk. 

A huge picture window in the living room, famous for its size and 
the fact that it could be lowered, was Hitler s pride. It offered a view of 
the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Salzburg. However, Hitler had been 
inspired to situate his garage underneath this window; when the wind was 
unfavorable, a strong smell of gasoline penetrated into the living room. 
All in all, this was a ground plan that would have been graded D by any 
professor at an institute of technology. On the other hand, these very 
clumsinesses gave the Berghof a strongly personal note. The place was 
still geared to the simple activities of a former weekend cottage, merely 
expanded to vast proportions. 

All the cost estimates were exceeded by far, and Hitler was somewhat 

I've completely used up the income from my book, although Amann's 
given me a further advance of several hundred thousand. Even so there's 
not enough money, so Bormann has told me today. The publishers are after 
me to release my second book, the 1928 one, for publication.* But I'm 
certainly glad this volume hasn't been published. What political complica- 
tions it would make for me at the moment. On the other hand it would 
relieve me of all financial pressures at one stroke. Amann promised me a 
million just as an advance, and beyond that it would bring in millions. 
Perhaps later, when I'm further along. Now it's impossible. 

There he sat, a voluntary prisoner with his view of the Untersberg 
where, legend has it, the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps, but will 
one day arise to restore the past glory of the German Empire. Hitler 
naturally appropriated this legend for himself: "You see the Untersberg 
over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it." 

Bormann was linked to Hitler not only by his vast building projects 
on the Obersalzberg. He contrived at the same time to take over admin- 
istration of Hitler's personal finances. Not only were Hitler's adjutants 
tied to the purse strings that Bormann controlled, but even Hitler's 
mistress was dependent upon him, as she candidly confessed to me. 
Hitler left it to Bormann to attend to her modest needs. 

* Hitler's so-called second book was not published until 1961. 

Sy ) Obersalzberg 

Hitler praised Bormanns financial skill. Once I heard him relate 
how Bormann had performed a significant service for the party during 
the difficult year of 1932 by introducing compulsory accident insurance 
for all party members. The income from this insurance fund considerably 
exceeded the expenditures, Hitler said, and the party was able to use 
the surplus for other purposes. Bormann also did his bit to eliminate 
Hitlers financial anxieties permanently after 1933. He found two sources 
of ample funds. Together with Hitlers personal photographer Hoffmann 
and Hoffmanns friend Ohnesorge, the Minister of Posts, he decided that 
Hitler had rights to the reproduction of his picture on postage stamps 
and was therefore entitled to payments. The percentage royalty was 
infinitesimal, but since the Fuehrer s head appeared on all stamps, mil- 
lions flowed into the privy purse administered by Bormann. 

Bormann developed another source by founding the Adolf Hitler 
Endowment Fund of German Industry. Entrepreneurs who were profiting 
by the economic boom were bluntly requested to show their appreciation 
by voluntary contributions to the Fuehrer. Since other party bigwigs had 
had the same notion, Bormann obtained a decree assuring him a monop- 
oly on such contributions. But he was clever enough to return a part of 
the donations to various party leaders "in behalf of the Fuehrer." Almost 
all of the top party f unctionaries received gifts from this fund. This power 
to set the living standards of the Gauleiters and Reichsleiters did not at- 
tract attention; but fundamentally it conferred on Bormann more power 
than many other positions within the hierarchy. 

With his typical perseverance, from 1934 on Bormann followed the 
simple principle of always remaining in closest proximity to the source 
of all grace and favor. He accompanied Hitler to the Berghof and on 
trips, and in the Chancellery never left his side until Hitler went to bed 
in the early morning hours. In this way Bormann became Hitler's hard- 
working, reliable, and ultimately indispensable secretary. He pretended 
to be obliging to everyone, and almost everyone availed himself of Bor- 
manns services— all the more so since he obviously served Hitler with 
utter selflessness. Even his immediate superior, Rudolf Hess, found it 
convenient to have Bormann close to Hitler at all times. 

The powerful men under Hitler were already jealously watching one 
another like so many pretenders to the throne. Quite early there were 
struggles for position among Goebbels, Goering, Rosenberg, Ley, Himmler, 
Ribbentrop, and Hess. Only Roehm had been left by the wayside, 
and before long Hess was to lose all his influence. But none of them 
recognized a threat in the shape of trusty Bormann. He had succeeded 
in representing himself as insignificant while imperceptibly building 
up his bastions. Even among so many ruthless men, he stood out by his 
brutality and coarseness. He had no culture, which might have put some 
restraints on him, and in every case he carried out whatever Hitler had 


ordered or what he himself had gathered from Hitler's hints. A sub- 
ordinate by nature, he treated his own subordinates as if he were dealing 
with cows and oxen. He was a peasant. 

I avoided Bormann; from the beginning we could not abide each 
other. We treated each other with formal correctness, as the private 
atmosphere at Obersalzberg required. With the exception of my own 
studio, I never designed a building for him to execute. 

Hitler s stays on "the mountain" provided him, as he often stressed, 
with the inner calm and assurance for his surprising decisions. He also 
composed his most important speeches there, and it is worth noting 
how he wrote them. Thus, before the Nuremberg Party Rally he regularly 
retreated to Obersalzberg for several weeks in order to work out his 
long speeches on basic principles. As the deadline drew nearer, his 
adjutants kept urging him to begin the dictation and kept everyone and 
everything away from him, even architectural plans and visitors, so that 
he would not be distracted from the work. But Hitler postponed the 
task from week to week, then from day to day, and would reluctantly set 
to work on it only under extreme time pressure. By then it was usually 
too late to finish all the speeches, and during the Rally, Hitler usually 
had to stay up nights to make up for the time he had squandered at 

I had the impression that he needed this pressure in order to be 
able to work, that in the bohemian manner of the artist he despised 
discipline and could not or would not force himself to work regularly. He 
let the content of his speeches or his thoughts ripen during these weeks 
of apparent idling until all that had accumulated poured out like a 
stream bursting its bounds upon followers or negotiators. 

Our move from our secluded valley to the bustle of Obersalzberg 
was ruinous to my work. The very sameness of the day's routine was 
tiring, the unchanging group around Hitler— the same coterie who 
regularly met in Munich and in Berlin-was boring. The only difference 
from Berlin and Munich was that wives were present on the mountain, 
and also two or three women secretaries and Eva Braun. 

Hitler usually appeared in the lower rooms late in the morning, 
around eleven o'clock. He then went through the press summaries, re- 
ceived several reports from Bormann, and made his first decisions. 
The day actually began with a prolonged afternoon dinner. The guests 
assembled in the anteroom. Hitler chose the lady he would take in to 
dinner, while Bormann, from about 1938 on, had the privilege of escort- 
ing Eva Braun, to the table; she usually sat on Hitler's left. That in 
itself was proof of Bormann's dominant position in the court. The dining 
room was a mixture of artistic rusticity and urban elegance of a sort 
which was often characteristic of country houses of the wealthy. The 

89 ) Obersalzberg 

walls and ceilings were paneled in pale larchwood, the chairs covered 
with bright red morocco leather. The china was a simple white; the 
silver bore Hitler's monogram and was the same as that used in Berlin. 
Hitler always took pleasure in its restrained floral decoration. The food 
was simple and substantial: soup, a meat course, dessert, with either 
Fachinger mineral water or wine. The waiters, in white vests and black 
trousers, were members of the SS bodyguard. Some twenty persons sat 
at the long table, but because of its length no general conversation could 
arise. Hitler sat in the middle, facing the window. He talked with the 
person opposite him, who was different every day, or with the ladies to 
either side of him. 

Shortly after dinner the walk to the teahouse began. The width of 
the path left room for only two abreast, so that the file resembled a 
procession. Two security men walked at the head. Then came Hitler 
with one other person, with whom he conversed, followed in any order 
by the dinner company, with more guards bringing up the rear. Hitler s 
two police dogs roamed about the area and ignored his commands— 
the only oppositionists at his court. To Bormann's vexation, Hitler was 
addicted to this particular walk, which took about half an hour, and dis- 
dained using the mile-long paved forest roads. 

The teahouse had been built at one of Hitler's favorite lookout points 
above the Berchtesgaden valley. The company always marveled at the 
panorama in the same phrases. Hitler always agreed in much the same 
language. The teahouse itself consisted of a round room about twenty- 
five feet in diameter, pleasing in its proportions, with a row of small- 
paned windows and a fireplace along the interior wall. The company sat 
in easy chairs around the round table, with Eva Braun and one of the 
other ladies again at Hitler's side. Those who did not find seats went into 
a small adjoining room. According to taste, one had tea, coffee, or 
chocolate, and various types of cake and cookies, followed by liqueurs. 
Here, at the coffee table, Hitler was particularly fond of drifting into end- 
less monologues. The subjects were mostly familiar to the company, who 
therefore listened absently, though pretending attention. Occasionally 
Hitler himself fell asleep over one of his monologues. The company then 
continued chatting in whispers, hoping that he would awaken in time for 
the evening meal. It was all very familial. 

After about two hours the teatime ended, generally around six. 
Hitler stood up, and the procession moved on to the parking area, about 
twenty minutes' walk, where a column of cars waited. After returning 
to the Berghof, Hitler usually withdrew to the upper rooms, while the 
retinue scattered. Bormann frequently disappeared into the room of one 
of the younger stenographers, which elicited spiteful remarks from 
Eva Braun. 

Two hours later the company met again for supper, with repetition 


of the afternoon ritual. Afterward, Hitler went into the salon, again fol- 
lowed by the still unchanged company. 

The Troost studio had furnished the salon sparsely, but with over- 
size furniture: a sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long 
which housed phonograph records along with various certificates of 
honorary citizenship awarded to Hitler; a monumental classicist china 
closet; a massive clock crowned by a fierce bronze eagle. In front of the 
large picture window stood a table twenty feet long, which Hitler used 
for signing documents or, later, for studying military maps. There were 
two sitting areas: one a sunken nook at the back of the room, with the 
red upholstered chairs grouped around a fireplace; the other, near the 
window, dominated by a round table whose fine veneer was protected by 
a glass top. Beyond this sitting area was the movie projection cabinet, its 
openings concealed by a tapestry. Along the opposite wall stood a mas- 
sive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze 
bust of Richard Wagner by Arno Breker. Above this hung another tapes- 
try which concealed the movie screen. Large oil paintings covered the 
walls: a lady with exposed bosom ascribed to Bordone, a pupil of Titian; a 
picturesque reclining nude said to be by Titian himself; Feuerbach's 
Nana in a very handsome frame; an early landscape by Spitzweg; a land- 
scape with Roman ruins by Pannini; and, surprisingly, a kind of altar 
painting by Eduard von Steinle, one of the Nazarene group, representing 
King Henry, founder of cities. But there was no Griitzner. Hitler occa- 
sionally let it be known that he had paid for these paintings out of his 
own income. 

We found places on the sofas or in one of the easy chairs in either of 
the sitting areas; the two tapestries were raised; and the second part of 
the evening began with a movie, as was also the custom when Hitler was 
in Berlin. Afterward the company gathered around the huge fireplace- 
some six or eight persons lined up in a row on the excessively long and 
uncomfortably low sofa, while Hitler, once more flanked by Eva Braun 
and one of the ladies, ensconced himself in one of the soft chairs. Because 
of the inept arrangement of the furniture the company was so scattered 
that no common conversation could arise. Everyone talked in low voices 
with his neighbor. Hitler murmured trivialities with the two women at his 
side, or whispered with Eva Braun; sometimes he held her hand. But 
often he fell silent or stared broodingly into the fire. Then the guests fell 
silent also, in order not to disturb him in important thoughts. 

Occasionally the movies were discussed, Hitler commenting mainly 
on the female actors and Eva Braun on the males. No one took the trouble 
to raise the conversation above the level of trivialities by, for example, 
remarking on any of the new trends in directing. Of course the choice of 
films scarcely allowed for any other approach, for they were all standard 
products of the entertainment industry. Such experiments of the period 

gi ) Obersalzberg 

as Curt Oriel's Michelangelo film were never shown, at least not when I 
was there. Sometimes Bormann used the occasion to take some swipes at 
Goebbels, who was responsible for German film production. Thus, he 
would remark that Goebbels had made all kinds of trouble for the movie 
based on Kleist's The Broken Jug because he thought Emil Jannings's 
portrayal of the lame village magistrate, Adam, was a caricature of him- 
self. Hitler gleefully watched the film, which had been withdrawn from 
circulation, and gave orders that it be shown again in the largest Berlin 
movie theater. But— and this is typical of Hitler's sometimes amazing 
lack of authority— for a long time this simply was not done. Bormann, how- 
ever, kept bringing up the matter until Hitler showed serious irritation 
and let Goebbels know that his orders had better be obeyed. 

Later, during the war, Hitler gave up the evening showings, saying 
that he wanted to renounce his favorite entertainment "out of sympathy 
for the privations of the soldiers." Instead records were played. But 
although the record collection was excellent, Hitler always preferred the 
same music. Neither baroque nor classical music, neither chamber music 
nor symphonies, interested him. Before long the order of the records be- 
came virtually fixed. First he wanted a few bravura selections from 
Wagnerian operas, to be followed promptly with operettas. That remained 
the pattern. Hitler made a point of trying to guess the names of the 
sopranos and was pleased when he guessed right, as he frequently did. 

To animate these rather barren evenings, sparkling wine was handed 
around and, after the occupation of France, confiscated champagne of 
a cheap brand; Goering and his air marshals had appropriated the best 
brands. From one o'clock on some members of the company, in spite of 
all their efforts to control themselves, could no longer repress their yawns. 
But the social occasion dragged on in monotonous, wearing emptiness for 
another hour or more, until at last Eva Braun had a few words with 
Hitler and was permitted to go upstairs. Hitler would stand up about 
a quarter of an hour later, to bid his company goodnight. Those who 
remained, liberated, often followed those numbing hours with a gay 
party over champagne and cognac. 

In the early hours of the morning we went home dead tired, ex- 
hausted from doing nothing. After a few days of this I was seized by what 
I called at the time "the mountain disease." That is, I felt exhausted and 
vacant from the constant waste of time. Only when Hitler's idleness was 
interrupted by conferences was I free to put myself and my associates to 
work on designs. As a favored permanent guest and inhabitant of Ober- 
salzberg I could not withdraw from these evenings, agonizing as they 
were, without appearing impolite. Dr. Otto Dietrich, the press chief, ven- 
tured to slip away to performances at the Salzburg Festival a few times, 
but in doing so he incurred Hitler's anger. During Hitler's longer stays at 
Obersalzberg the only way to save oneself was to flee to Berlin. 


Sometimes familiars of Hitler s old Munich or Berlin circles, such as 
Goebbels, Franz Schwarz, the party treasurer, or Hermann Esser, State 
Secretary for Tourism in the Ministry of Propaganda, put in an appearance. 
But this happened rarely and then only for a day or two. Even Hess, 
who should have had every reason to check the activities of his deputy, 
Bormann, turned up only two or three times, at least while I was there. 
These close associates, who could frequently be met at afternoon dinners 
in the Chancellery, obviously avoided Obersalzberg. Their absence was 
particularly noticeable because Hitler showed considerable pleasure when 
they turned up and frequently asked them to come often and to stay 
longer. But they had meanwhile become the centers of their own circles, 
and it was therefore rather uncomfortable for them to submit to Hitler s 
altogether different routine and to his manner, which in spite of all his 
charm was painfully self-assertive. 

Eva Braun was allowed to be present during visits from old party 
associates. She was banished as soon as other dignitaries of the Reich, such 
as cabinet ministers, appeared at table. Even when Goering and his wife 
came, Eva Braun had to stay in her room. Hitler obviously regarded her as 
socially acceptable only within strict limits. Sometimes I kept her com- 
pany in her exile, a room next to Hitler s bedroom. She was so intimidated 
that she did not dare leave the house for a walk. "I might meet the 
Goerings in the hall." 

In general Hitler showed little consideration for her feelings. He 
would enlarge on his attitude toward women as though she were not 
present: "A highly intelligent man should take a primitive and stupid 
woman. Imagine if on top of everything else I had a woman who inter- 
fered with my work! In my leisure time I want to have peace. ... I 
could never marry. Think of the problems if I had children! In the end 
they would try to make my son my successor. Besides, the chances are 
slim for someone like me to have a capable son. That is almost always 
how it goes in such cases. Consider Goethe's son— a completely worthless 
person! . . . Lots of women are attracted to me because I am unmarried. 
That was especially useful during our days of struggle. It's the same as 
with a movie actor; when he marries he loses a certain something for the 
women who adore him. Then he is no longer their idol as he was bef ore." 

Hitler believed that he had a powerful sexual appeal to women. But 
he was also extremely wary about this; he never knew, he used to say, 
whether a woman preferred him as the Chancellor or as Adolf Hitler, and 
as he often remarked ungallantly, he certainly did not want witty and in- 
telligent women about him. In making such remarks he was apparently 
not aware of how offensive they must have been to the ladies present. On 
the other hand Hitler could sometimes behave like a good head of a 
family. Once, when Eva Braun was skiing and came to tea rather late, he 

93 ) Obersalzberg 

looked uneasy, kept glancing nervously at the clock, and was plainly wor- 
ried that she might have had an accident. 

Eva Braun came of a family of modest circumstances. Her father 
was a schoolteacher. I never met her parents; they never appeared and 
continued to live as befitted their station until the end. Eva Braun, too, 
remained simple; she dressed quietly and wore the inexpensive jewelry* 
that Hitler gave her for Christmas or her birthdays: usually semiprecious 
stones worth a few hundred marks at most and actually insulting in their 
modesty. Bormann would present a selection, and Hitler would choose 
these trinkets with what seemed to me petit-bourgeois taste. 

Eva Braun had no interest in politics. She scarcely ever attempted to 
influence Hitler. With a good eye for the facts of everyday life, however, 
she did sometimes make remarks about minor abuses in conditions in 
Munich. Bormann did not like that, since in such cases he was instantly 
called to account. She was sports-loving, a good skier with plenty of en- 
durance with whom my wife and I frequently undertook mountain tours 
outside the enclosed area. Once Hitler actually gave her a week's vacation 
—when he himself was not at Obersalzberg, of course. She went to Zurs 
with us for a few days. There, unrecognized, she danced with great pas- 
sion into the wee hours of the morning with young army officers. She was 
very far from being a modern Madame Pompadour; for the historian she 
is interesting only insofar as she set off some of Hitler's traits. 

Out of sympathy for her predicament I soon began to feel a liking for 
this unhappy woman, who was so deeply attached to Hitler. In addition, 
we were linked by our common dislike for Bormann, although at that 
time what we resented most was the coarseness with which he was raping 
the beauty of nature at Obersalzberg and betraying his wife. When I 
heard at the Nuremberg Trial that Hitler had married Eva Braun in the 
last day and a half of his life, I felt glad for her— even though I could 
sense even in this act the cynicism with which Hitler had treated her and 
probably women in general. 

I have often wondered whether Hitler felt anything like affection 
for children. He certainly made an effort when he met them, whether 
they were the children of acquaintances or unknown to him. He even 
tried to deal with them in a paternally friendly fashion, but never man- 
aged to be very convincing about it. He never found the proper easy man- 
ner of treating them; after a few benign words he would soon turn to 
others. On the whole he regarded children as representatives of the next 

* N. E. Gun's Eva Braun: Hitlers Mistress (Meredith, 1968) gives a list of 
valuable jewelry. So far as I remember she did not wear anything of the sort, nor 
does any appear in the many photographs of her. Perhaps the list refers to the ob- 
jects of value which Hitler saw to it that she received through Bormann during 
the war. 


generation and therefore took more pleasure in their appearance (blond, 
blue-eyed), their stature (strong, healthy), or their intelligence (brisk, 
aggressive) than in their nature as children. His personality had no effect 
whatsoever upon my own children. 

What remains in my memory of social life at Obersalzberg is a curi- 
ous vacuity. Fortunately, during my first years of imprisonment, while my 
recollections were still fresh, I noted down a few scraps of conversations 
which I can now regard as reasonably authentic. 

In those hundreds of teatimes questions of fashion, of raising dogs, 
of the theater and movies, of operettas and their stars were discussed, 
along with endless trivialities about the family lives of others. Hitler 
scarcely ever said anything about the Jews, about his domestic opponents, 
let alone about the necessity for setting up concentration camps. Perhaps 
such topics were omitted less out of deliberate intention than because 
they would have been out of place amidst the prevailing banality. On the 
other hand, Hitler made fun of his closest associates with striking fre- 
quency. It is no accident that these particular remarks have remained in 
my mind, for after all they involved persons who were officially immune 
from all criticism. Hitler's private circle was not held to these rules, and 
in any case Hitler considered it pointless to attempt to keep women from 
gossiping. Was it self-aggrandizement when he spoke disparagingly of 
everything and everyone? Or did such talk spring from his general con- 
tempt for all persons and events? 

Thus Hitler had little sympathy with Himmler in his mythologizing 
of the SS. 

What nonsense! Here we have at last reached an age that has left all 
mysticism behind it, and now he wants to start that all over again. We might 
just as well have stayed with the church. At least it had tradition. To think 
that I may some day be turned into an SS saint! Can you imagine it? I 
would turn over in my grave. . . . 

Himmler has made another speech calling Charlemagne the "butcher 
of the Saxons." Killing all those Saxons was not a historical crime, as 
Himmler thinks. Charlemagne did a good thing in subjugating Widukind 
and killing the Saxons out of hand. He thereby made possible the empire 
of the Franks and the entry of Western culture into what is now Germany. 

Himmler had scientists undertake excavations of prehistoric sites. 
Hitler commented: 

Why do we call the whole world's attention to the fact that we have 
no past? It isn't enough that the Romans were erecting great buildings when 
our forefathers were still living in mud huts; now Himmler is starting to 

95 ) Obersalzberg 

dig up these villages of mud huts and enthusing over every potsherd and 
stone axe he finds. All we prove by that is that we were still throwing stone 
hatchets and crouching around open fires when Greece and Rome had 
already reached the highest stage of culture. We really should do our best 
to keep quiet about this past. Instead Himmler makes a great fuss about it 
all. The present-day Romans must be having a laugh at these revelations. 

Amid his political associates in Berlin, Hitler made harsh pronounce- 
ments against the church, but in the presence of the women he adopted a 
milder tone— one of the instances where he adapted his remarks to his 

"The church is certainly necessary for the people. It is a strong and 
conservative element," he might say at one time or another in this private 
circle. However, he conceived of the church as an instrument that could 
be useful to him. "If only Reibi [this was his nickname for Reich Bishop 
Ludwig Miiller] had some kind of stature. But why do they appoint a 
nobody of an army chaplain? I'd be glad to give him my full support. 
Think of all he could do with that. Through me the Evangelical [Protes- 
tant] Church could become the established church, as in England." 

Even after 1942 Hitler went on maintaining that he regarded the 
church as indispensable in political life. He would be happy, he said in 
one of those teatime talks at Obersalzberg, if someday a prominent 
churchman turned up who was suited to lead one of the churches— or if 
possible both the Catholic and Protestant churches reunited. He still 
regretted that Reich Bishop Miiller was not the right man to carry out his 
far-reaching plans. But he sharply condemned the campaign against the 
church, calling it a crime against the future of the nation. For it was im- 
possible, he said, to replace the church by any "party ideology." Un- 
doubtedly, he continued, the church would learn to adapt to the political 
goals of National Socialism in the long run, as it had always adapted in 
the course of history. A new party religion would only bring about a 
relapse into the mysticism of the Middle Ages. The growing SS myth 
showed that clearly enough, as did Rosenberg's unreadable Myth of the 
Twentieth Century. 

If in the course of such a monologue Hitler had pronounced a more 
negative judgment upon the church, Bormann would undoubtedly have 
taken from his jacket pocket one of the white cards he always carried 
with him. For he noted down all Hitlers remarks that seemed to him 
important; and there was hardly anything he wrote down more eagerly 
than deprecating comments on the church. At the time I assumed that he 
was gathering material for a biography of Hitler. 

Around 1937, when Hitler heard that at the instigation of the party 
and the SS vast numbers of his followers had left the church because it 
was obstinately opposing his plans, he nevertheless ordered his chief as- 


sociates, above all Goering and Goebbels, to remain members of the 
church. He too would remain a member of the Catholic Church, he said, 
although he had no real attachment to it. And in fact he remained in the 
church until his suicide. 

Hitler had been much impressed by a scrap of history he had learned 
from a delegation of distinguished Arabs. When the Mohammedans at- 
tempted to penetrate beyond France into Central Europe during the 
eighth century, his visitors had told him, they had been driven back at 
the Battle of Tours. Had the Arabs won this battle, the world would be 
Mohammedan today. For theirs was a religion that believed in spreading 
the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. The 
Germanic peoples would have become heirs to that religion. Such a creed 
was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament. Hitler said that the 
conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long 
run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions 
of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous natives, 
so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at 
the head of this Mohammedan Empire. 

Hitler usually concluded this historical speculation by remarking: 
"You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't 
we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Father- 
land as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have 
been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to 
be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?" It is remarkable that 
even before the war he sometimes went on: "Today the Siberians, the 
White Russians, and the people of the steppes live extremely healthy 
lives. For that reason they are better equipped for development and in 
the long run biologically superior to the Germans." This was an idea he 
was destined to repeat in far more drastic tones during the last months 
of the war. 

Rosenberg sold his seven-hundred page Myth of the Twentieth Cen- 
tury in editions of hundreds of thousands. The public regarded the book 
as the standard text for party ideology, but Hitler in those teatime 
conversations bluntly called it "stuff nobody can understand," written by 
"a narrow-minded Baltic German who thinks in horribly complicated 
terms." He expressed wonderment that such a book could ever have at- 
tained such sales: "A relapse into medieval notions!" I wondered if such 
private remarks were carried back to Rosenberg. 

Hitler believed that the culture of the Greeks had reached the peak 
of perfection in every field. Their view of life, he said, as expressed in their 
architecture, had been "fresh and healthy." One day a photograph of a 
beautiful woman swimmer stirred him to enthusiastic reflections: "What 
splendid bodies you can see today. It is only in our century that young 
people have once again approached Hellenistic ideals through sports. 

97 ) Obersalzberg 

How the body was neglected in earlier centuries. In this respect our times 
differ from all previous cultural epochs since antiquity." He personally, 
however, was averse to any kind of sports. Moreover, he never mentioned 
having practiced any sport at all as a young man. 

By the Greeks he meant the Dorians. Naturally his view was affected 
by the theory, fostered by the scientists of his period, that the Dorian 
tribe which migrated into Greece from the north had been of Germanic 
origin and that, therefore, its culture had not belonged to the Mediter- 
ranean world. 

Goering's passion for hunting was one of his favorite topics. 

How can a person be excited about such a thing. Killing animals, if 
it must be done, is the butcher's business. But to spend a great deal of 
money on it in addition. ... I understand, of course, that there must be 
professional hunters to shoot sick animals. If only there were still some 
danger connected with hunting, as in the days when men used spears for 
killing game. But today, when anybody with a fat belly can safely shoot 
the animal down from a distance. . . . Hunting and horse racing are the 
last remnants of a dead feudal world. 

Hitler also took delight in having Ambassador Hewel, Ribbentrop's 
liaison man, transmit the content of telephone conversations with the 
Foreign Minister. He would even coach Hewel in ways to disconcert or 
confuse his superior. Sometimes he stood right beside Hewel, who would 
hold his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone and repeat what 
Ribbentrop was saying, while Hitler whispered what to answer. Usually 
these were sarcastic remarks intended to fan the nervous Foreign Minis- 
ter's suspicions that unauthorized persons might be influencing Hitler on 
questions of foreign policy, thus infringing on his domain. 

After dramatic negotiations Hitler was apt to deride his opposites. 
Once he described Schuschnigg's visit to Obersalzberg on February 12, 
1938. By a pretended fit of passion he had made the Austrian Chancellor 
realize the gravity of the situation, he said, and finally forced him to 
yield. Many of those hysterical scenes that have been reported were prob- 
ably carefully staged. In general, self-control was one of Hitler's most 
striking characteristics. In those early days he lost control of himself only 
a very few times, at least in my presence. 

Some time around 1936 Schacht had come to the salon of the Berghof 
to report. We guests were seated on the adjacent terrace and the large 
window of the salon was wide open. Hitler was shouting at his Finance 
Minister, evidently in extreme excitement. We heard Schacht replying 
firmly in a loud voice. The dialogue grew increasingly heated on both 
sides and then ceased abruptly. Furious, Hitler came out on the terrace 
and ranted on about this disobliging, limited minister who was holding 


up the rearmament program. He had another such fit of rage at Pastor 
Niemoller in 1937. Niemoller had once again delivered a rebellious sermon 
in Dahlem; at the same time transcripts of his tapped telephone conversa- 
tions were presented to Hitler. In a bellow Hitler ordered Niemoller to be 
put in a concentration camp and, since he had proved himself incorrigi- 
ble, kept there for life. 

Another incident refers back to his early youth. On a trip from Bud- 
weis to Krems in 1942 I noticed a large plaque on a house in the village 
of Spital, close to the Czech border. In this house, according to the 
plaque, "the Fuehrer lived in his youth." It was a handsome house in a 
prosperous village. I mentioned this to Hitler. He instantly flew into a 
rage and shouted for Bormann, who hurried in much alarmed. Hitler 
snarled at him: How many times had he said that this village must never 
be mentioned. But that idiot of a Gauleiter had gone and put up a plaque 
there. It must be removed at once. At the time I could not explain his 
excitement, since he was usually pleased when Bormann told him about 
the refurbishing of other sites connected with his youth around Linz and 
Braunau. Apparently he had some motive for erasing this part of his 
youth. Today, of course, these chapters of family history lost in the mists 
of this Austrian forest region are well known.* 

Sometimes Hitler sketched one of the towers of the historic fortifica- 
tions of Linz. "Here was my favorite playground. I was a poor pupil in 
school, but I was the leader of our pranks. Someday I am going to have 
this tower made into a large youth hostel, in memory of those days." He 
would also frequently speak of the first important political impressions of 
his youth. Almost all of his fellow pupils in Linz, he said, had distinctly 
felt that the immigration of the Czechs into German Austria should be 
stopped. This had made him conscious of the problem of nationalities 
for the first time. But then, in Vienna, he said, the danger of Judaism had 
abruptly dawned on him. Many of the workers with whom he was thrown 
together had been intensely anti-Semitic. In one respect, however, he had 
not agreed with the construction workers: "I rejected their Social Demo- 
cratic views. Moreover, I never joined a union. This attitude brought me 
into my first political difficulties." Perhaps this was one of the reasons he 
did not have good memories of Vienna— altogether in contrast to his time 
in Munich before the war. For he would go on and on in praise of Munich 
and— with surprising frequency— in praise of the good sausages to be had 
in its butcher shops. 

He spoke with unqualified respect about the Bishop of Linz in his 
early days, who in the face of many obstacles insisted on the unusual pro- 
portions of the cathedral he was building in Linz. The bishop had had 

* The reference is to the illegitimacy of Hitler's father, Alois Schicklgruber.— 
Translators' note. 

99 ) Obersalzberg 

difficulties with the Austrian government, Hitler said, because he wanted 
to surpass St. Stephan's Cathedral and the government did not wish to 
see Vienna outstripped. 1 Such remarks were usually followed by com- 
ments on the way the Austrian central government had crushed all inde- 
pendent cultural impulses on the part of cities like Graz, Linz, or Inns- 
bruck. Hitler could say these things apparently without being aware that 
he was imposing the same kind of forcible regimentation upon whole 
countries. Now that he was giving the orders, he said, he would help 
his native city win its proper place. His program for the transforma- 
tion of Linz into a "metropolis" envisioned a number of impressive public 
buildings on both sides of the Danube. A suspension bridge was to con- 
nect the two banks. The apex of his plan was a large Gau House (District 
Headquarters) for the National Socialist Party, with a huge meeting hall 
and a bell tower. There would be a crypt in this tower for his own burial 
place. Other impressive monuments along the shore were to be a town 
hall, a large theater, a military headquarters, a stadium, a picture gallery, 
a library, a museum of armaments, and an exhibition building, as well as 
a monument celebrating the liberation of Austria in 1938 and another 
glorifying Anton Bruckner.* The design for the picture gallery and the 
stadium was to be assigned to me. The stadium would be situated on a 
hill overlooking the city. Hitler's residence for his old age would be 
located nearby, also on a height. 

Hitler sometimes went into raptures over the shorelines in Budapest 
which had grown up on both sides of the Danube in the course of cen- 
turies. It was his ambition to transform Linz into a German Budapest. 
Vienna was oriented all wrong, he would comment in this connection, 
since it merely turned its back to the Danube. The planners had neglected 
to incorporate the river in their design. Thanks to what he would be doing 
with the river in Linz, the city might some day rival Vienna. No doubt he 
was not altogether serious in making such remarks; he would be tempted 
into them by his dislike for Vienna, which would spontaneously break 
out from time to time. But there were many other times when he would 
exclaim over the brilliant stroke of city planning accomplished in Vienna 
by the use of the former fortifications. 

Before the war Hitler was already talking about the time when, his 
political goals accomplished, he would withdraw from the affairs of state 
and finish out his life in Linz. When this time came, he would say, he 
would no longer play any political part at all; for only if he withdrew 
completely could his successor gain authority. He would not interfere in 
any way. People would turn to his successor quickly enough once it be- 
came evident that power was now in those hands. Then he himself would 
be soon forgotten. Everyone would forsake him. Playing with this idea, 

* Hitler himself had done sketches for all these structures. 


with a good measure of self-pity, he continued: "Perhaps one of my former 
associates will visit me occasionally. But I don't count on it. Aside from 
Fraulein Braun, I'll take no one with me. Fraulein Braun and my dog. 
I'll be lonely. For why should anyone voluntarily stay with me for any 
length of time? Nobody will take notice of me any more. They'll all go 
running after my successor. Perhaps once a year they'll show up for my 
birthday." Naturally everyone at the table protested and assured him 
that they would remain faithful and always stay by him. Whatever Hitler's 
motives may have been for these allusions to an early retirement from 
politics, he at any rate seemed to assume at such times that the source of 
his authority was not the magnetism of his personality but his position of 

The nimbus that surrounded Hitler for those of his collaborators who 
did not have any intimate association with him was incomparably greater 
than for his immediate entourage. Members of the "retinue" did not speak 
respectfully of the "Fuehrer," but of the "Chief." They were sparing in 
their use of "Heil Hitler" and greeted one another with an ordinary 
"Guten Tag." They even openly made fun of Hitler, without his taking 
offense. Thus, his standard phrase, "There are two possibilities," would be 
used by one of his secretaries, Fraulein Schroder, in his presence, often in 
the most banal of contexts. She would say: "There are two possibilities. 
Either it is going to rain or it is not going to rain." Eva Braun in the pres- 
ence of his table companions might pertly call Hitler's attention to the 
fact that his tie did not go with his suit, and occasionally she gaily re- 
ferred to herself as "Mother of the Country." 

Once, when we were seated at the round table in the teahouse, Hitler 
began staring at me. Instead of dropping my eyes, I took it as a challenge. 
Who knows what primitive instincts are involved in such staring duels. I 
had had others, and always used to win them, but this time I had to mus- 
ter almost inhuman strength, seemingly forever, not to yield to the ever- 
mounting urge to look away— until Hitler suddenly closed his eyes and 
shortly afterward turned to the woman at his side. 

Sometimes I asked myself: Why can't I call Hitler my friend? What 
is missing? I spent endless time with him, was almost at home in his pri- 
vate circle and, moreover, his foremost associate in his favorite field, archi- 

Everything was missing. Never in my life have I met a person who 
so seldom revealed his feelings, and if he did so, instantly locked them 
away again. During my time in Spandau I talked with Hess about this 
peculiarity of Hitler's. Both of us agreed that there had been moments 
when we felt we had come close to him. But we were invariably dis- 
illusioned. If either of us ventured a slightly more personal tone, Hitler 
promptly put up an unbreakable wall. 

Hess did think there had been one person with whom Hitler had 

ioi ) Obersalzberg 

had a closer bond: Dietrich Eckart. But as we talked about it, we decided 
that the relationship had been, on Hitler s side, more a matter of admira- 
tion for the older man, who was regarded chiefly in anti-Semitic circles 
as a leading writer, than a friendship. When Eckart died in 1923 there 
remained four men with whom Hitler used the Du of close friendship: 
Hermann Esser, Christian Weber, Julius Streicher, and Ernst Roehm.* 
In Esser's case he found a pretext after 1933 to reintroduce the formal 
Sie; Weber he avoided; Streicher he treated impersonally; and Roehm he 
had killed. Even toward Eva Braun he was never completely relaxed and 
human. The gulf between the leader of the nation and the simple girl 
was always maintained. Now and then, and it always struck a faintly 
jarring note, he would call her Tschapperl, a Bavarian peasant pet name 
with a slightly contemptuous flavor. 

Hitler must already have realized the immense drama that his life 
was, the high stakes he was playing for, by the time he had a long con- 
versation with Cardinal Faulhaber at Obersalzberg in November 1936. 
Afterward Hitler sat alone with me in the bay window of the dining 
room, while the twilight fell. For a long time he looked out of the window 
in silence. Then he said pensively: "There are two possibilities for me: To 
win through with all my plans, or to fail. If I win, I shall be one of the 
greatest men in history. If I fail, I shall be condemned, despised, and 

* Hermann Esser was one of the very first party members and later became 
the state secretary for tourism. Christian Weber, also one of the earliest party mem- 
bers, was reduced to a rather limited role after 1933; among other things he was in 
charge of the horse races at Riem. Ernst Roehm was head of the SA and was mur- 
dered by Hitler in 1934. Julius Streicher was Germany's foremost anti-Semite, editor 
of Der Stiirmer and Gauleiter of Franconia. 


The New Chancellery 


of the greatest men in history," Hitler now demanded an architectural 
stage set of imperial majesty. He described the Chancellery into which he 
had moved on January 30, 1933, as "fit for a soap company." It would 
not do for the headquarters of a now powerful Reich, he said. 

At the end of January 1938 Hitler called me to his office. "I have an 
urgent assignment for you," he said solemnly, standing in the middle of 
the room. "I shall be holding extremely important conferences in the 
near future. For these, I need grand halls and salons which will make an 
impression on people, especially on the smaller dignitaries. For the site I 
am placing the whole of Voss Strasse at your disposal. The cost is im- 
material. But it must be done very quickly and be of solid construction. 
How long do you need? For plans, blueprints, everything? Even a year 
and a half or two years would be too long for me. Can you be done by 
January 10, 1939? I want to hold the next diplomatic reception in the 
new Chancellery." I was dismissed. 

Hitler later described the rest of that day in his speech for the raising 
of the ridgepole of the building: "My Generalbauinspektor (Inspector 
General of Buildings) asked for a few hours time for reflection, and in 
the evening he came to me with a list of deadlines and told me: 'On such- 
and-such a date in March the old buildings will be gone, on August 1 we 
will celebrate the raising of the ridgepole, and on January 9, my Leader, 

( 102 ) 

103 ) The New Chancellery 

I shall report completion to you/ I myself have been in the business, in 
building, and know what such a schedule means. This has never hap- 
pened before. It is a unique achievement." 1 Actually, it was the most 
thoughtless promise of my life. But Hitler seemed satisfied. 

I had the razing of the houses on Voss Strasse begun at once in 
order to clear the site. Simultaneously, I plunged ahead with plans for 
the exterior of the building. The underground air-raid shelter had in 
fact to be started from crude sketches. But even at a later stage of the 
work I had to order many components before the architectural data 
had been definitely settled. For example, the longest delivery times 
were required for the enormous hand-knotted rugs which were to be used 
in several large salons. I decided their colors and size before I knew what 
the rooms they were meant for would look like. In fact the rooms were 
more or less designed around these rugs. I decided to forgo any compli- 
cated organizational plan and schedule, since these would only have re- 
vealed that the project could not possibly be carried out within the time 
limit. In many respects this improvised approach resembled the methods 
I was to apply four years later in directing the German war economy. 

The oblong site was an invitation to string a succession of rooms 
on a long axis. I showed Hitler my design: From Wilhelmsplatz an arriv- 
ing diplomat drove through great gates into a court of honor. By way of 
an outside staircase he first entered a medium-sized reception room from 
which double doors almost seventeen feet high opened into a large 
hall clad in mosaic. He then ascended several steps, passed through a 
round room with domed ceiling, and saw before him a gallery four 
hundred eighty feet long. Hitler was particularly impressed by my gallery 
because it was twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Deep 
window niches were to filter the light, creating that pleasant effect I had 
seen in the Salle de Bal at the Palace of Fontainebleau. 

As a whole, then, it was to be a series of rooms done in a rich 
variety of materials and color combinations, in all some seven hundred 
twenty-five feet long. Only then came Hitlers reception hall. To be 
sure, it was architecture that reveled in ostentation and aimed at startling 
effects. But that sort of thing existed in the baroque period, too— it has 
always existed. 

Hitler was delighted: "On the long walk from the entrance to the 
reception hall they'll get a taste of the power and grandeur of the 
German Reich!" During the next several months he asked to see the plans 
again and again but interfered remarkably little in this building, even 
though it was destined for him personally. He let me work freely. 

The haste with which Hitler was urging the building of the new 
Chancellery had a deeper cause in his anxiety about his health. He 
seriously feared that he did not have much longer to live. Since 1935 


his imagination had dwelt increasingly on a stomach ailment which he 
tried to cure by a self-imposed regimen. He thought he knew what foods 
harmed him and in the course of time was prescribing a starvation diet 
for himself. A little soup, salad, small quantities of the lightest food- 
he no longer ate anything substantial. He sounded desperate when he 
pointed to his plate: "A man is supposed to keep alive on that! Look 
at it. It's easy for the doctors to say that people ought to eat what they 
have an appetite for. 2 Hardly anything is good for me nowadays. After 
every meal the pain begins. Leave out still more? Then how am I going 
to exist?" 

He often interrupted a conference because of his gastric pains and 
withdrew for half an hour or more, or did not return at all. He also 
suffered, so he said, from excessive formation of gas, cardiac pains, and 
insomnia. Eva Braun once confided that he had said to her— this before 
he was fifty: 'Til soon have to give you your freedom. Why should you be 
tied to an old man?" 

His physician, Dr. Brandt, was a young surgeon who tried to per- 
suade Hitler to undergo a thorough examination by a first-class specialist 
in internal medicine. All of us supported this proposal. The names of 
celebrated doctors were mentioned, and plans made for carrying out an 
examination without creating any stir, for instance at a military hospital, 
since secrecy could be most easily maintained there. But in the end, 
again and again, Hitler repulsed all such suggestions. He simply could not 
afford to be regarded as sick, he said. It would weaken his political 
position, especially abroad. He even refused to have a specialist come to 
his home for a preliminary examination. To my knowledge he was never 
seriously examined at the time, but experimented with treating his 
symptoms by his own theories— which accorded, incidentally, with his 
inveterate bent for amateurish activities. 

On the other hand, when he suffered from increasing hoarseness 
he consulted the famous Berlin throat specialist Professor von Eicken. 
He underwent a thorough examination in his apartment in the Chancel- 
lery and was relieved when no cancer was detected. For months he had 
been referring to the fate of Emperor Frederick III, who died of cancer of 
the throat. The surgeon removed a harmless node. This minor operation 
also took place in Hitler s apartment. 

In 1935 Heinrich Hoffmann fell critically ill. Dr. Theodor Morell, an 
old acquaintance, tended him and cured him with sulfanilamides 3 which 
he obtained from Hungary. Hoffmann was forever telling Hitler about the 
wonderful doctor who had saved his life. Undoubtedly Hoffmann meant 
well, though one of MorelTs talents was his ability to exaggerate immod- 
erately any illness he cured, in order to cast his skill in the proper light. 

Dr. Morell alleged that he had studied under the famous bac- 
teriologist Ilya Mechnikov (1845-1916), Nobel Prize winner and professor 

105 ) The New Chancellery 

at the Pasteur Institute. 4 Mechnikov, he claimed, had taught him the art 
of combating bacterial diseases. Later, Morell had taken long voyages on 
passenger liners as a ship's doctor. Undoubtedly he was not an out-and- 
out quack— rather a bit of a screwball obsessed with making money. 

Hitler was persuaded to undergo an examination by Morell. The 
result surprised us all, for Hitler for the first time became convinced of 
a doctors importance. "Nobody has ever before told me so clearly 
and precisely what is wrong with me. His method of cure is so logical 
that I have the greatest confidence in him. I shall follow his prescriptions 
to the letter." The chief finding, so Hitler said, was that he suffered 
from complete exhaustion of the intestinal flora, which Morell attributed 
to the overburdening of his nervous system. If that were cured, all the 
other complaints would fade away. Morell, however, wished to ac- 
celerate the restorative process by injections of vitamins, hormones, 
phosphorus, and dextrose. The cure would take a year; only partial 
results could be expected in any shorter period. 

The most discussed medicine Hitler received henceforth consisted 
of capsules of intestinal bacteria, called "Multiflor ' which were, Morell 
assured him, "raised from the best stock of a Bulgarian peasant." The 
other injections and drugs he gave to Hitler were not generally known; 
they were only hinted at. We never felt entirely easy about these 
methods. Dr. Brandt asked around among his specialist friends, and 
they all pronounced Morell's methods risky and improved and foresaw 
dangers of addiction. And in fact the injections had to be given more 
and more frequently, and biologicals obtained from the testicles and 
intestines of animals, as well as from chemical and plant sources, were 
poured into Hitlers bloodstream. One day Goering deeply offended 
Morell by addressing him as "Herr Reich Injection Master." 

Soon after the beginning of the treatment, however, a foot rash 
vanished that had long caused Hitler much concern. After a few weeks 
Hitler s stomach also improved; he ate considerably more, and heavier 
dishes, felt better, and fervently declared: "What luck that I met 
Morell! He has saved my life. Wonderful, the way he has helped me!" 

If Hitler had the faculty for placing others under his spell, in this 
case the reverse relationship developed: Hitler was completely con- 
vinced of his personal physician s genius and soon forbade any criticism 
of the man. From then on Morell belonged to the intimate circle and 
became— when Hitler was not present— the butt of humor, since he 
could talk of nothing but strepto- and other cocci, of bulls' testicles 
and the newest vitamins. 

Hitler kept urging all his associates to consult Morell if they had 
the slightest ailments. In 1936, when my circulation and stomach re- 
belled against an irrational working rhythm and adjustment to Hitler's 
abnormal habits, I called at MorelTs private office. The sign at the 


entrance read: "Dr. Theodor Morell. Skin and Venereal Diseases." MorelTs 
office and home were situated in the smartest part of Kurfiirstendamm, 
near the Gedachtniskirche. The walls were hung with inscribed photo- 
graphs of well-known actors and film stars. The time I was there, I 
shared the waiting room with the Crown Prince. After a superficial 
examination Morell prescribed for me his intestinal bacteria, dextrose, 
vitamin, and hormone tablets. For safety's sake I afterward had a 
thorough examination by Professor von Bergmann, the specialist in 
internal medicine of Berlin University. I was not suffering from any 
organic trouble, he concluded, but only nervous symptoms caused by 
overwork. I slowed down my pace as best I could, and the symptoms 
abated. To avoid offending Hitler, I pretended that I was carefully 
following Morell's instructions, and since my health improved I became 
for a time Morell's showpiece. Hitler also had him examine Eva Braun. 
Afterward she told me that he was disgustingly dirty and vowed that she 
would not let Morell treat her again. 

Hitler's health improved only temporarily. But he would no longer 
part with his personal physician. On the contrary, Morell's country house 
on Schwanenwerder Island near Berlin became the goal of Hitler's teatime 
visits more and more frequently. It was the only place outside the 
Chancellery that continued to attract him. He visited Dr. Goebbels's 
very rarely and came to my place at Schlachtensee only once, to see the 
house I had built for myself. 

From the end of 1937 on, when Morell's treatments began to fail, 
Hitler resumed his old laments. Even as he gave assignments and 
discussed plans, he would occasionally add: "I don't know how long I 
am going to live. Perhaps most of these buildings will be finished only 
after I am no longer here. . . ." 5 The date for the completion of many 
of the major buildings had been fixed between 1945 and 1950. Evidently 
Hitler was counting on only a few more years of life. Another example: 
"Once I leave here ... I shall not have much more time." 6 In private 
one of his standard remarks became: "I shall not live much longer. I 
always counted on having time to realize my plans. I must carry them 
out myself. None of my successors will have the force to. I must carry 
out my aims as long as I can hold up, for my health is growing worse all 
the time." 

On May 2, 1938, Hitler drew up his personal will. He had already 
outlined his political testament on November 5, 1937, in the presence 
of the Foreign Minister and the military heads of the Reich. In that 
speech, he referred to his extensive plans for conquest as a "testamentary 
bequest in case of my decease." 7 With his intimate entourage, who night 
after night had to watch trivial operetta movies and listen to endless 
tirades on the Catholic Church, diet recipes, Greek temples, and police 
dogs, he did not reveal how literally he took his dream of world dominion. 

107 ) The New Chancellery 

Many of Hitler's former associates have since attempted to establish 
the theory that Hitler changed in 1938. They attribute the change to his 
deteriorated health resulting from MorelTs treatment. It seems to me, 
on the contrary, that Hitler's plans and aims never changed. Sickness and 
the fear of death merely made him advance his deadlines. His aims could 
only have been thwarted by superior counterforces, and in 1938 no such 
forces were visible. Quite the opposite: The successes of that year en- 
couraged him to go on forcing the already accelerated pace. 

The feverish haste with which Hitler pushed our building work 
seemed also connected with this inner unrest. At the Chancellery ridge- 
pole celebration he said to the workmen: "This is no longer the American 
tempo; it has become the German tempo. I like to think that I also 
accomplish more than other statesmen accomplish in the so-called democ- 
racies. I think we are following a different tempo politically, and if it is 
possible to annex a country to the Reich in three or four days, why it must 
be possible to erect a building in one or two years." Sometimes, how- 
ever, I wonder whether his excessive passion for building did not also 
serve the purpose of camouflaging his plans and deceiving the public 
by means of building schedules and cornerstone layings. 

I remember one occasion in 1938 when we were sitting in the 
Deutscher Hof in Nuremberg. Hitler spoke of the need to keep to one- 
self things not meant for the ears of the public. Among those present was 
Reichsleiter Philip Bouhler and his young wife. She objected that such 
restrictions surely did not apply to this group, since all of us knew 
how to keep any secret he confided to us. Hitler laughed and answered: 
"Nobody here knows how to keep his mouth shut, except for one person." 
And he indicated me. But there were things that happened in the next 
several months of which he breathed no word to me. 

On February 2, 1938, I saw the Commander in Chief of the Navy, 
Erich Raeder, crossing the main salon of the apartment, coming from a 
conference with Hitler. He looked utterly distraught. He was pale, 
staggering, like someone on the verge of a heart attack. On the day 
after next I learned from the newspapers that Foreign Minister von 
Neurath had been replaced by Ribbentrop and Army Commander in 
Chief von Fritsch by von Brauchitsch. Hitler personally had assumed 
the post of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, replacing Field 
Marshal von Blomberg, and had made General Wilhelm Keitel his 
chief of staff. 

I was acquainted with Colonel General von Blomberg from Ober- 
salzberg; he was a pleasant, aristocratic looking man who enjoyed 
Hitler's esteem and had been treated with unusual amiability until his 
dismissal. In the autumn of 1937, at Hitler's suggestion, he had called 
at my office on Pariser Platz and looked over the plans and models 


for the rebuilding of Berlin. He listened calmly and with interest for 
about an hour. At the time he was accompanied by a general who 
seconded his chiefs every word by an approving nod of his head. This 
was Wilhelm Keitel, who had now become Hitlers closest military 
assistant in the High Command of the Armed Forces. Ignorant of 
military hierarchy, I had taken him for Blomberg's adjutant. 

About the same time Colonel General von Fritsch, whom I had not 
met up to then, asked me to call at his office on Bendlerstrasse. It 
was not curiosity alone that prompted him to ask to see the plans for 
Berlin. I spread them out on a large map table. Coolly and aloofly, 
with a military curtness that verged on unfriendliness, he listened to 
my explanations. From his questions, it appeared he was considering 
whether Hitlers vast building projects, extending over long periods 
of time, betokened any interest in preserving peace. But perhaps I was 

I also did not know the Foreign Minister, Baron von Neurath. One 
day in 1937 Hitler decided that Neurath's villa was not adequate for the 
Foreign Minister s official duties and sent me to Frau von Neurath to 
offer to have the house significantly enlarged at government expense. 
She showed me through but stated in a tone of finality that in her 
opinion and that of the Foreign Minister it fully served its purpose; 
would I tell the Chancellor: "No, thank you." Hitler was annoyed and 
did not repeat the offer. Here for once a member of the old nobility 
was demonstrating confident modesty and deliberately abstaining from 
the craving for ostentation on the part of the new masters. The same 
was certainly not true of Ribbentrop, who in the summer of 1936 had 
me come to London where he wanted the German Embassy enlarged and 
modernized. He wished to have it finished in time for the coronation 
of George VI in the spring of 1937. There would no doubt be many parties 
given then, and he meant to impress London society by the sumptuousness 
of the embassy. Ribbentrop left the details to his wife, who indulged 
herself in such splendors with an interior decorator from Munich's 
United Workshops that I felt my services were superfluous. Toward me 
Ribbentrop took a conciliatory tone. But in those days in London he 
was always in a bad temper upon receiving cabled instructions from the 
Foreign Minister. This he regarded as pure meddling and would irritably 
and loudly declare that he cleared his actions with Hitler personally; the 
Fuehrer had directly assigned him to London. 

Even this early many of Hitlers political associates who hoped 
for good relations with England were beginning to think Ribbentrop was 
not the man for the job. In the autumn of 1937, Dr. Todt made an 
inspection trip of the various building sites for the autobahn, taking 
Lord Wolton along as guest. Afterward, it appeared that Lord Wolton 
expressed the wish, unofficially, to have Todt himself sent as ambassador 

109 ) The New Chancellery 

to London in Ribbentrop's place. So long as Ribbentrop remained, rela- 
tions would never improve, Lord Wolton said. We took care that Hitler 
heard of these remarks. He did not react. 

Soon after Ribbentrop's appointment as Foreign Minister, Hitler 
suggested that the old Foreign Ministers villa be torn down entirely, 
and the former palace of the Reich President be renovated for his of- 
ficial residence. Ribbentrop accepted the offer. 

I was in the salon of Hitler's Berlin apartment when the second 
event of this year, and one which testified to the acceleration in Hitlers 
political plans, began to unfold. The day was March 9, 1938. Hitlers 
adjutant, Schaub, sat at the radio listening to the Innsbruck speech of 
Dr. Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor. Hitler had withdrawn to his 
private study on the second floor. Apparently Schaub was waiting for 
something in particular. He was taking notes. Schuschnigg spoke more 
and more plainly, finally presenting his plan for a plebiscite in Austria. 
The Austrian people themselves would decide for or against independence. 
And then Schuschnigg sounded the watchword to his fellow countrymen: 
"Austrians, the time has come!" 

The time had come for Schaub too; he rushed upstairs to Hitler. 
A short while later, Goebbels in full dress and Goering in gala uniform 
hustled in. They were coming from some party, for the Berlin season 
for balls was in full swing, and vanished upstairs for some mysterious 

Once more enlightenment came to me several days later and via the 
newspapers. On March 13, German troops marched into Austria. Some 
three weeks later I too drove to Vienna by car to prepare the hall of 
the Northwest Railroad Station for a grand rally. Everywhere in towns 
and villages German cars were cheered. At the Hotel Imperial in Vienna 
I encountered the sordid hidden side of the rejoicing over the Anschluss. 
Many bigwigs from the Reich, such as Berlin Police Commissioner Count 
Helldorf, had hurried there, lured by the well-stocked shops. "They 
still have good underclothing. . . . Wool blankets, as many as you like. 
. . . I've discovered a place for foreign liqueurs. . . ." Scraps of the con- 
versations in the hotel lobby. I felt repelled and limited myself to buying a 
Borsalino. Did any of this concern me? 

Shortly after the annexation of Austria, Hitler sent for a map of 
Central Europe and showed his reverently listening entourage how 
Czechoslovakia was now caught in a "pincers." For years to come he 
would recall how magnanimously Mussolini had given his consent to the 
invasion of Austria. He would remain eternally grateful to the Duce for 
that, Hitler said. For Austria had been an invaluable buffer zone for 
Italy. To have German troops standing at the Brenner Pass would in the 
long run cause a certain strain. Hitlers Italian journey of 1938 was 


partly intended as an assurance of friendship. But he was also eager 
to see the monuments and art treasures of Rome and Florence. Resplen- 
dent uniforms were designed for the entourage and shown to Hitler. He 
loved such pomp; that his own dress was modest was a matter of careful 
strategy. "My surroundings must look magnificent. Then my simplicity 
makes a striking effect." About a year later Hitler turned to the stage 
designer Benno von Arent, known for his sets for opera and operettas, 
and had him design new uniforms for diplomats. He was pleased by the 
frock coats laden with gold braid. But wits remarked: "They look like 
a scene from Die Fledermaus." Arent also designed medals for Hitler; 
those too would have looked great on the stage. Thereafter I used to 
call Arent: "Tinsmith of the Third Reich." 

Back from Italy, Hitler summed up his impressions: "How glad I am 
that we have no monarchy and that I have never listened to those who 
have tried to talk me into one. Those court flunkies and that etiquette! 
It's awful. And the Duce always in the background. The best places 
at all the dinners and on the platforms are taken by the royal family. 
The Duce was always kept at a remove, and yet he is the one who 
really runs the government. ,, By diplomatic protocol Hitler, as Chief of 
State, was treated as of equal rank with the King, Mussolini only as 
Prime Minister. 

Even after the visit, Hitler felt obliged to do something special 
to honor Mussolini. He decided that Berlin's Adolf Hitler Platz would 
bear Mussolini's name after it had been incorporated into the major 
urban renewal project for Berlin. 8 Privately, he thought this square 
appalling, disfigured as it was by "modern" buildings of the Weimar Re- 
public. But: "If we rename it Mussolini Platz, I am rid of it, and besides 
it seems like an exceptional honor to cede my own square to the Duce. 
I already have designed a Mussolini monument for it!" Nothing came of 
the project, since the rebuilding plans were never carried out. 

The dramatic year 1938 led finally to Hitler's wresting the consent 
of the Western powers for the partition of Czechoslovakia. A few weeks 
before Hitler had put on an exceptionally effective performance at the 
Nuremberg Party Rally, playing the enraged leader of his nation; and 
supported by the frenzied applause of his followers, he tried to convince 
the contingent of foreign observers that he would not shrink from war. 
That was, judged with benefit of hindsight, intimidation on a grand 
scale. He had already tested this technique in his conference with 
Schuschnigg. On the other hand, he loved to sharpen his mettle by such 
audacities, going so far that he could no longer retreat without risking 
his prestige. 

This time he wanted even his closest associates to believe in his 
feint. He explained the various considerations to them and stressed 

in ) The New Chancellery 

the inevitability of a military showdown, whereas his usual behavior 
was to veil his basic intentions. What he said about his resolve for war 
impressed even Bruckner, his chief adjutant of many years. In September 
1938? during the Party Rally, I was sitting with Bruckner on a wall of 
Nuremberg Castle. Wreathed in smoke, the old city lay before us, in the 
mild September sunshine. Downcast, Bruckner remarked: "We may be 
seeing this peaceful scene for the last time. Probably we shall soon be at 

The war Bruckner was predicting was averted again more because 
of the compliance of the Western powers than because of any reasonable- 
ness on Hitler's part. The surrender of the Sudetenland to Germany took 
place before the eyes of a frightened world and of Hitlers followers, 
now completely convinced of their leader s invincibility. 

The Czech border fortifications caused general astonishment. To the 
surprise of experts a test bombardment showed that our weapons would 
not have prevailed against them. Hitler himself went to the former 
frontier to inspect the arrangements and returned impressed. The forti- 
fications were amazingly massive, he said, laid out with extraordinary 
skill and echeloned, making prime use of the terrain. "Given a resolute 
defense, taking them would have been very difficult and would have cost 
us a great many lives. Now we have obtained them without loss of blood. 
One thing is certain: I shall never again permit the Czechs to build a 
new defense line. What a marvelous starting position we have now. We 
are over the mountains and already in the valleys of Bohemia." 

On November 10, driving to the office, I passed by the still smoldering 
ruins of the Berlin synagogues. That was the fourth momentous event 
that established the character of this last of the prewar years. Today, this 
memory is one of the most doleful of my life, chiefly because what really 
disturbed me at the time was the aspect of disorder that I saw on 
Fasanenstrasse: charred beams, collapsed fa9ades, burned-out walls- 
anticipations of a scene that during the war would dominate much of 
Europe. Most of all I was troubled by the political revival of the "gutter." 
The smashed panes of shop windows offended my sense of middle-class 

I did not see that more was being smashed than glass, that on that 
night Hitler had crossed a Rubicon for the fourth time in his life, had 
taken a step that irrevocably sealed the fate of his country. Did I sense, 
at least for a moment, that something was beginning which would end 
with the annihilation of one whole group of our nation? Did I sense that 
this outburst of hoodlumism was changing my moral substance? I do 
not know. 

I accepted what had happened rather indifferently. Some phrases 
of Hitler s, to the effect that he had not wanted these excesses, con- 


tributed to this attitude. Later, in private, Goebbels hinted that he had 
been the impresario for this sad and terrible night, and I think it very 
possible that he confronted a hesitant Hitler with a fait accompli in order 
to force him to take the initiative. 

It has repeatedly surprised me, in later years, that scarcely any 
anti-Semitic remarks of Hitlers have remained in my memory. Out of 
the scraps that remain, I can reconstruct what crossed my mind at the 
time: dismay over the deviation from the image I wanted to have of 
Hitler, anxiety over the increasing deterioration of his health, hope 
for some letup of the struggle against the churches, a certain puzzlement 
at his partiality for utopian-sounding remote goals, all sorts of odd feelings 
—but Hitlers hatred for the Jews seemed to me so much a matter of 
course that I gave it no serious thought. 

I felt myself to be Hitler s architect. Political events did not concern 
me. My job was merely to provide impressive backdrops for such events. 
And this view was reinforced daily, for Hitler consulted me almost exclu- 
sively on architectural questions. Moreover, it would have been regarded 
as self-importance on the part of a man who was pretty much of a late- 
comer in the party had I attempted to participate in the political dis- 
cussions. I felt that there was no need for me to take any political positions 
at all. Nazi education, furthermore, aimed at separatist thinking; I was 
expected to confine myself to the job of building. The grotesque extent 
to which I clung to this illusion is indicated by a memorandum of mine 
to Hitler as late as 1944: "The task I have to fulfill is an unpolitical one. 
I have felt at ease in my work only so long as my person and my work 
were evaluated solely by the standard of practical accomplishments." 9 

But fundamentally the distinction was inconsequential. Today it seems 
to me that I was trying to compartmentalize my mind. On the one hand 
there was the vulgar business of carrying out a policy proclaimed in the 
anti-Semitic slogans printed on streamers over the entrances to towns. 
On the other hand there was my idealized picture of Hitler. I wanted to 
keep these two apart. Actually, it did not matter, of course, who mobilized 
the rabble of the gutter to attack synagogues and Jewish businesses, it 
did not matter whether this happened at Hitler's direct instigation or 
merely with his approval. 

During the years after my release from Spandau I have been repeat- 
edly asked what thoughts I had on this subject during my two decades 
alone in the cell with myself; what I actually knew of the persecution, the 
deportation, and the annihilation of the Jews; what I should have known 
and what conclusions I ought to have drawn. 

I no longer give the answer with which I tried for so long to soothe 
the questioners, but chiefly myself: that in Hitler's system, as in every 
totalitarian regime, when a man s position rises, his isolation increases and 
he is therefore more sheltered from harsh reality; that with the applica- 
tion of technology to the process of murder the number of murderers is re- 

ii3 ) Th e N ew Chancellery 

duced and therefore the possibility of ignorance grows; that the craze for 
secrecy built into the system creates degrees of awareness, so it is easy 
to escape observing inhuman cruelties. 

I no longer give any of these answers. For they are efforts at legalistic 
exculpation. It is true that as a favorite and later as one of Hitler's most 
influential ministers I was isolated. It is also true that the habit of thinking 
within the limits of my own field provided me, both as architect and as 
Armaments Minister, with many opportunities for evasion. It is true that 
I did not know what was really beginning on November 9, 1938, and what 
ended in Auschwitz and Maidanek. But in the final analysis I myself 
determined the degree of my isolation, the extremity of my evasions, and 
the extent of my ignorance. 

I therefore know today that my agonized self -examinations posed 
the question as wrongly as did the questioners whom I have met since my 
release. Whether I knew or did not know, or how much or how little I 
knew, is totally unimportant when I consider what horrors I ought to have 
known about and what conclusions would have been the natural ones to 
draw from the little I did know. Those who ask me are fundamentally 
expecting me to offer justifications. But I have none. No apologies are 

The New Chancellery was supposed to be finished on January 9. On 
January 7, Hitler came to Berlin from Munich. He came in a mood of 
great suspense and obviously expecting to find teams of workmen and 
cleaning squads rushing about. Everyone knows the frantic atmosphere 
at a building site shortly before the building is to be handed over to the 
occupant: scaffoldings being dismantled, dust and rubbish being removed, 
carpets being unrolled and pictures hung. But his expectations were de- 
ceived. From the start we had given ourselves a few days reserve. We 
did not need them and therefore were finished forty-eight hours before 
the official handing over of the building. Hitler could have sat down at 
his desk right then and there and begun working on the affairs of govern- 

The building greatly impressed him. He highly praised the "genius of 
the architect" and, quite contrary to his habit, said so to me. But the fact 
that I had managed to finish the task two days early earned me the repu- 
tation of being a great organizer. 

Hitler especially liked the long tramp that state guests and diplo- 
mats would now have to take before they reached the reception hall. Un- 
like me, he was not worried about the polished marble floor, which I 
was reluctant to cover with a runner. "That's exactly right; diplomats 
should have practice in moving on a slippery surface." 

The reception hall struck him as too small; he wanted it tripled in 
size. The plans for this were ready at the beginning of the war. His study, 
on the other hand, met with his undivided approval. He was particularly 


pleased by an inlay on his desk representing a sword half drawn from 
its sheath. "Good, good. . . . When the diplomats sitting in front of me 
at this desk see that, they'll learn to shiver and shake. ,> 

From the gilded panels I had installed over the four doors of his 
study, four Virtues looked down on him: Wisdom, Prudence, Fortitude, 
and Justice. I don't know what suggested this idea to me. I had put two 
sculptures by Arno Breker in the Round Salon, flanking the portal to the 
Great Gallery. One of them represented Daring, the other Caring. 10 This 
rather pathetic hint on the part of my friend Breker that audacity should 
be tempered with responsibility, as well as my own allegorical reminder 
that bravery was a virtue but that the other virtues should not be for- 
gotten, showed how naively we overestimated the influence of art. But it 
also betrayed a certain uneasiness on our part over the course things were 

A large marble-topped table stood by the window, useless for the 
time being. From 1944 on, military conferences were held at it. Here 
outspread strategic maps showed the rapid advance of the western and 
eastern enemies into the territory of the German Reich. This was Hitler's 
penultimate military headquarters; the ultimate one was located five 
hundred feet away, under many feet of concrete. The hall for cabinet 
meetings, completely paneled in wood for acoustic reasons, found favor 
with Hitler, but he never used it for the intended purpose. Every so often 
a cabinet minister asked me whether I could arrange for him at least to 
sfee "his" room. Hitler gave permission, and so now and then a minister 
would stand for a few minutes at the place he had never taken, where a 
large blue leather desk pad, with his name embossed in gold letters, lay 
on the conference table. 

Forty-five hundred workers had labored in two shifts to meet the 
deadline. There were several thousand more scattered over the country 
who had produced components. The whole work force, masons, carpen- 
ters, plumbers, and so on, were invited to inspect the building and filed 
awestruck through the finished rooms. Hitler addressed them in the 

I stand here as representative of the German people. And whenever I 
receive anyone in the Chancellery, it is not the private individual Adolf Hitler 
who receives him, but the Leader of the German nation— and therefore it 
is not I who receive him, but Germany through me. For that reason I want 
these rooms to be in keeping with their high mission. Every individual has 
contributed to a structure that will outlast the centuries and will speak to 
posterity of our times. This is the first architectural creation of the new, 
great German Reich! 

After meals he frequently asked which of his guests had not yet seen 
the Chancellery, and he was delighted whenever he could show one of 

115 ) The New Chancellery 

them through. On such occasions he liked to show off his ability to store 
up data. Thus, he would begin by asking me: "How large is this room? 
How high?" I would shrug my shoulders in embarrassment, and he would 
give the measurements. They were exactly right. Gradually this developed 
into a prearranged game, since I too became adept at rattling off the 
figures. But since it obviously gave him pleasure, I played along. 

Hitlers honors to me increased. He arranged a dinner in his residence 
for my closest associates; he wrote an essay for a book on the Chancel- 
lery, conferred the Golden Party Badge on me, and with a few shy words 
gave me one of the watercolors he had done in his youth. A Gothic church 
done in 1909, it is executed in an extremely precise, patient, and pedantic 
style. No personal impulses can be felt in it; not a stroke has any verve. 
But it is not only the brush strokes that lack all character; by its choice of 
subject, the flat colors, the conventional perspective, the picture seems a 
candid witness to this early period of Hitler. All his watercolors from the 
same time have this quality, and even the watercolors done while he was 
an orderly in the First World War lack distinctiveness. The transformation 
in Hitlers personality, the growth of self-assurance, came later. It is evi- 
dent in the two pen sketches for the great hall in Berlin and for the tri- 
umphal arch, which he drew about 1925. Ten years later he would often 
sketch with a vigorous hand, using red and blue pencil, sometimes going 
over and over his drawing until he had forced his way through to the con- 
ception he had dimly in mind. Nevertheless he still thought well enough 
of the modest watercolors of his youth to give them away occasionally as 
a special distinction. 

For decades a marble bust of Bismarck by Reinhold Begas had stood 
in the Chancellery. A few days before the dedication of the new building, 
while workmen were moving the bust to the new headquarters, it dropped 
and broke off at the neck. I felt this as an evil omen. And since I had 
heard Hitlers story that right at the beginning of the First World War the 
Reich eagle had toppled from the post-office building, I kept the accident 
a secret and had Arno Breker make an exact copy. We gave it some patina 
by steeping it in tea. 

In the aforementioned speech Hitler made the following pronounce- 
ment: "This is the special and wonderful property of architecture: When 
the work has been done, a monument remains. That endures; it is some- 
thing different from a pair of boots, which also can be made, but which 
the wearer wears out in a year or two and then throws away. This re- 
mains, and through the centuries will bear witness to all those who helped 
to create it." On January 10, 1939, the new building destined to last for 
centuries was dedicated: Hitler received the diplomats accredited to 
Berlin in the Grand Salon and delivered his New Year address to them. 

Sixty-five days after the dedication, on March 15, 1939, the President 
of Czechoslovakia was ushered into Hitlers new study. This room was the 


scene of the tragedy which ended at night with Hacha's submission and 
early in the morning with the occupation of his country. "At last," Hitler 
reported later, "I had so belabored the old man that his nerves gave way 
completely, and he was on the point of signing; then he had a heart 
attack. In the adjoining room Dr. Morell gave him an injection, but in this 
case it was too effective. Hacha regained too much of his strength, revived, 
and was no longer prepared to sign, until I finally wore him down again." 

On July 16, 1945, seventy-eight months after the dedication, Winston 
Churchill was shown through the Chancellery. "In front of the Chancel- 
lery there was a considerable crowd. When I got out of the car and walked 
among them, except for one old man who shook his head disapprovingly, 
they all began to cheer. My hate had died with their surrender, and I was 
much moved by their demonstrations." Then the party walked for a good 
while through the shattered corridors and halls of the Chancellery. 

Soon afterward the remains of the building were removed. The stone 
and marble supplied the materials for the Russian war monument in 


A Day in the Chancellery 

Between forty and fifty persons had access to hitler's afternoon 
dinner table in the Chancellery. They needed only to telephone his ad- 
jutant and say they would be coming. Usually they were the Gauleiters 
and Reichsleiters of the party, a few cabinet ministers, the members of the 
inner circle, but no army officers except for Hitlers Wehrmacht adjutant. 
More than once this adjutant, Colonel Schmundt, urged Hitler to allow 
the leading military men to dine with him; but Hitler would not have it. 
Perhaps he realized that the quality of his regular associates was such that 
the officers' corps would soon be looking down on them. 

I too had free admission to Hitlers residence and often availed my- 
self of it. The policeman at the entrance to the front garden knew my car 
and opened the gate without making inquiries; I would park my car in 
the yard and enter the apartment that Troost had rebuilt. It extended 
along the right side of the new Chancellery and was connected with it 
by a hall. 

The SS member of Hitlers escort squad greeted me familiarly. I 
would hand him my roll of drawings and then, unaccompanied, like some- 
one who belonged to the household, step into the spacious entrance hall: 
a room with two groups of comfortable seats, the white walls adorned with 
tapestries, the dark-red marble floor richly covered with rugs. There 
would usually be several guests there conversing, while others might be 
making private telephone calls. In general this room was favored because 
it was the only one where smoking was permitted. 



It was not at all customary to use the otherwise mandatory "Heil 
Hitler" in greeting; a "Guten Tag" was far more common. The party lapel 
badge was also little flaunted in this circle, and uniforms were relatively 
seldom seen. Those who had penetrated as far as this privileged group 
could allow themselves a certain informality. 

Through a square reception salon, which thanks to its uncomfortable 
furniture remained unused, you reached the actual living room, where the 
guests would be chatting, usually standing. This room, about a thousand 
square feet in area, was the only one in the entire apartment furnished 
with a measure of Gemutlichkeit. Out of respect for its Bismarckian past 
it had been preserved during the major reconstruction of 1933-34 an d 
had a beamed ceiling, wood wainscoting, and a fireplace adorned by a 
Florentine Renaissance coat of arms which Chancellor von Bulow had 
once brought back from Italy. This was the only fireplace on the lower 
floor. Around it were grouped a sofa and chairs upholstered in dark 
leather; behind the sofa stood a largish table with a marble top on which 
several newspapers usually lay. A tapestry and two paintings by Schinkel 
hung on the walls. They had been lent by the National Gallery for the 
Chancellor s apartment. 

Hitler was royally unreliable about the time of his appearance. The 
dinner was usually set for about two o'clock, but it was apt to be three or 
later before Hitler arrived, sometimes from the upper private rooms of 
the apartment, often from a conference in the Chancellery. His entrance 
was as informal as that of any private individual. He greeted his guests 
by shaking hands; everyone gathered in a circle around him. He would 
express his opinion on one or another problem of the day; with a few 
favored guests he inquired, usually in a conventional tone, about the well- 
being of "your spouse." Then he took the news excerpts from his press 
chief, sat down off to one side, and began to read. Sometimes he would 
pass an excerpt on to one of the guests because the news seemed especially 
interesting to him, and would throw out a few casual remarks about it. 

The guests would continue to stand around for another fifteen or 
twenty minutes, until the curtain was drawn away from a glass door that 
led to the dining room. The house steward, a man with the encouraging 
bulk of a restaurateur, would inform Hitler quietly, in a tone in keeping 
with the whole unpublic atmosphere, that dinner was ready. The Fuehrer 
would lead the way; the others followed him into the dining room without 
any order of rank. 

Of all the rooms in the Chancellor s apartment that Professor Troost 
had redecorated, this large square dining room (forty by forty feet) was 
the most harmonious. A wall with three glass doors led out to the garden. 
Opposite was a large buffet of palisander wood; above it hung a painting 
by Kaulbach which had a certain charm because it was unfinished; at 

ii9 ) A Day in the Chancellery 

any rate it was without some of the embarrassing aspects of that eclectic 
painter. Each of the two other walls was marked by a shallow recess in 
which, on pedestals of marble, stood nude studies by the Munich sculptor 
Josef Wackerle. To either side of the recesses were more glass doors which 
led to the pantry, to a large salon, and into the living room from which 
we had come. Smoothly plastered walls, painted ivory, and equally light- 
colored curtains, produced a feeling of openness and brightness. Slight 
jogs in the walls carried out the clean, austere rhythm; a molding held it 
all together. The furnishing was restrained and restful: a large round table 
for about fifteen persons, ringed by simple chairs with dark red leather 
seats. The chairs were all alike, the host's no more elaborate than the rest. 
At the corners of the room stood four more small tables, each with from 
four to six similar chairs. The tableware consisted of light, plain china and 
simple glasses; both had been selected by Professor Troost before his 
death. A few flowers in a bowl formed the centerpiece. 

Such was the "Merry Chancellor s Restaurant," as Hitler often called 
it in speaking to his guests. He had his seat on the window side of the 
room, and before entering would select which of the guests would be 
seated at his side. All the rest sat down around the table wherever they 
found a place. If many guests came, the adjutants and persons of lesser 
importance, among whom I belonged, took seats at the side tables— an 
advantage, I always thought, since there we could talk with less con- 

The food was emphatically simple. A soup, no appetizer, meat with 
vegetables and potatoes, a sweet. For beverage we had a choice between 
mineral water, ordinary Berlin bottled beer, or a cheap wine. Hitler 
was served his vegetarian food, drank Fachinger mineral water, and 
those of his guests who wished could imitate him. But few did. It was 
Hitler himself who insisted on this simplicity. He could count on its being 
talked about in Germany. Once, when the Helgoland fishermen presented 
him with a gigantic lobster, this delicacy was served at table, much to the 
satisfaction of the guests, but Hitler made disapproving remarks about 
the human error of consuming such ugly monstrosities. Moreover, he 
wanted to have such luxuries forbidden, he declared. 

Goering seldom came to these meals. Once, when I left him to go to 
dinner at the Chancellery, he remarked: "To tell the truth, the food there 
is too rotten for my taste. And then, these party dullards from Munich! 

Hess came to table about once every two weeks; he would be 
followed by his adjutant in a rather weird getup, carrying a tin vessel 
containing a specially prepared meal which was to be rewarmed in the 
kitchen. For a long time it was hidden from Hitler that Hess had his 
own special vegetarian meal served to himself. When someone finally 
gave the secret away, Hitler turned irritably to Hess in the presence of 


the assembled company and blustered: "I have a first-class diet cook here. 
If your doctor has prescribed something special for you, she will be glad 
to prepare it. But you cannot bring your food with you." Hess, even then 
inclining to obstinate contrariness, began explaining that the components 
of his meals had to be of special biodynamic origin. Whereupon Hitler 
bluntly informed him that in that case he should take his meals at home. 
Thereafter Hess scarcely ever came to the dinners. 

When, at the instance of the party, word was sent out that all house- 
holds in Germany should eat a one-dish meal on Sundays, thereby pro- 
moting guns instead of butter, only a tureen of soup was served at 
Hitlers table too. The number of Sunday guests thereafter shrank to two 
or three, which provoked some sarcastic remarks from Hitler about the 
spirit of sacrifice among his associates. For there would also be a list 
passed around the table, with every guest pledging his donation to the 
war effort. Every one-dish meal cost me fifty or a hundred marks. 

Goebbels was the most prominent guest at table; Himmler seldom 
came; Bormann of course never missed a meal, but like me he belonged 
to the inner group of courtiers and could not be considered a guest. 

Here, too, Hitlers conversation at table did not go beyond the very 
narrow range of subjects and the limited point of view that made the 
Obersalzberg talk so wearisome. In Berlin he tended to phrase his opinions 
more harshly, but the repertory remained the same; he neither extended 
nor deepened it, scarcely ever enriched it by new approaches and insights. 
He did not even try to cover up the frequent repetitions which were so 
embarrassing to his listeners. I cannot say that I found his remarks im- 
pressive, even though I was still captivated by his personality. What he 
said rather sobered me, for I had expected opinions and judgments of 
higher quality. 

In these monologues he frequently asserted that his political, artistic, 
and military ideas formed a unity which he had developed in detail be- 
tween the ages of twenty and thirty. That had been intellectually his most 
fertile period, he said; the things he was now planning and doing were 
only the execution of the ideas of that period. 

In the table talk much weight was given to experiences in the First 
World War. Most of the guests had served during the war. For a time 
Hitler had been in the trenches opposite the British forces, whose bravery 
and determination had won his respect, although he also often made fun 
of their idiosyncrasies. Thus he liked to relate with heavy irony that they 
were in the habit of stopping their artillery fire exactly at teatime, so that 
he as a courier was always able to carry out his errands safely at that hour. 

In 1938 he expressed no ideas of revenge upon the French; he did 
not want a rerun of the war of 1914. It was not worth waging another 
war, he said, over that insignificant strip of territory constituting Alsace- 
Lorraine. Besides, he would add, the Alsatians had become so character- 

121 ) A Day in the Chancellery 

less due to the constant shifting of their nationality that it would be a 
gain to neither side to have them. They ought to be left where they were. 
In saying this, of course, Hitler was assuming that Germany could expand 
to the east. The bravery of the French soldiers had impressed him in the 
First World War; only the officer corps was morally enfeebled. "With 
German officers the French would be a splendid army. ,, 

He did not exactly repudiate the alliance with Japan— from the racist 
point of view a dubious affair— but he took a tone of reserve toward it as 
far as the more distant future was concerned. Whenever he touched on 
this theme, he implied that he was somewhat sorry about having made 
an alliance with the so-called yellow race. But then he would remind 
himself that England, too, had mobilized Japan against the Central 
Powers in the World War. Hitler considered Japan an ally that ranked 
as a world power, whereas he was not convinced that Italy was in the 
same class. 

The Americans had not played a very prominent part in the war of 
1914-18, he thought, and moreover had not made any great sacrifices of 
blood. They would certainly not withstand a great trial by fire, for their 
fighting qualities were low. In general, no such thing as an American 
people existed as a unit; they were nothing but a mass of immigrants 
from many nations and races. 

Fritz Wiedemann, who had once been regimental adjutant and 
superior to Hitler in his days as a courier and whom Hitler had now with 
signal lack of taste made his own adjutant, thought otherwise and kept 
urging Hitler to have talks with the Americans. Vexed by this offense 
against the unwritten law of the round table, Hitler finally sent him to 
San Francisco as German consul general. "Let him be cured of his notions 

Those who took part in these table conversations were almost to a 
man without cosmopolitan experience. Most had never been outside 
Germany; if one of them had taken a pleasure trip to Italy, the matter 
was discussed at Hitler s table as if it were an event and the person in 
question was considered a foreign affairs expert. Hitler, too, had seen 
nothing of the world and had acquired neither knowledge nor under- 
standing of it. Moreover, the average party politician lacked higher edu- 
cation. Of the fifty Reichsleiters and Gauleiters, the elite of the leadership, 
only ten had completed a university education, a few had attended uni- 
versity classes for a while, and the majority had never gone beyond 
secondary school. Virtually none of them had distinguished himself by any 
notable achievement in any field whatsoever. Almost all displayed an 
astonishing intellectual dullness. Their educational standard certainly did 
not correspond to what might be expected of the top leadership of a 
nation with a traditionally high intellectual level. Basically, Hitler pre- 
ferred to have people of the same origins as himself in his immediate 
entourage; no doubt he felt most at ease among them. In general he was 


pleased if his associates showed some "flaw in the weave," as we called it 
at the time. As Hanke commented one day: "It is all to the good if associ- 
ates have faults and know that the superior is aware of them. That is why 
the Fuehrer so seldom changes his assistants. For he finds them easiest to 
work with. Almost every one of them has his defect; that helps keep them 
in line." Immoral conduct, remote Jewish ancestors, or recent membership 
in the party were counted as flaws in the weave. 

Hitler would often theorize to the effect that it was a mistake to 
export ideas such as National Socialism. To do so would only lead to a 
strengthening of nationalism in other countries, he said, and thus to a 
weakening of his own position. He was glad to see that the Nazi parties 
of other countries produced no leader of his own caliber. He considered 
the Dutch Nazi leader Mussert and Sir Oswald Mosley, chief of the British 
Nazi party, mere copyists who had had no original or new ideas. They 
only imitated us and our methods slavishly, he commented, and would 
never amount to anything. In every country you had to start from different 
premises and change your methods accordingly, he argued. He had a 
better opinion of Degrelle, but did not expect much of him either. 

Politics, for Hitler, was purely pragmatic. He did not except his own 
book of confessions and professions, Mein Kampf, from this general rule. 
Large parts of it were no longer valid, he said. He should not have let 
himself be pinned down to definite statements so early. After hearing that 
remark I gave up my fruitless efforts to read the book. 

When ideology receded into the background after the seizure of 
power, efforts were made to tame down the party and make it more re- 
spectable. Goebbels and Bormann were the chief opponents of that 
tendency. They were always trying to radicalize Hitler ideologically. To 
judge by his speeches, Ley must also have belonged to the group of tough 
ideologists, but lacked the stature to gain any significant influence. 
Himmler, on the other hand, obviously was going his own absurd way, 
which was compounded of beliefs about an original Germanic race, a 
brand of elitism, and an assortment of health-food notions. The whole 
thing was beginning to assume far-fetched pseudoreligious forms. 
Goebbels, with Hitler, took the lead in ridiculing these dreams of 
Himmler's, with Himmler himself adding to the comedy by his vanity and 
obsessiveness. When, for example, the Japanese presented him with a 
samurai sword, he at once discovered kinships between Japanese and 
Teutonic cults and called upon scientists to help him trace these similari- 
ties to a racial common denominator. 

Hitler was particularly concerned with the question of how he could 
assure his Reich a new generation of followers committed to his ideas. 
The general outlines of a plan were drafted by Ley, to whom Hitler had 
also entrusted the organization of the educational system. Adolf Hitler 
Schools were established for the elementary grades and Ordensburgen 
(Order Castles) for higher education. These were meant to turn out a 

123 ) A Day ™ the Chancellery 

technically and ideologically trained elite. To be sure, all this elite would 
have been good for was positions in a bureaucratic party administration, 
since thanks to their isolated and specialized education the young people 
knew nothing about practical life, while on the other hand their arrogance 
and conceit about their own abilities were boundless. It was significant 
that the high party functionaries did not send their own children into 
these schools; even so fanatical a party member as Gauleiter Sauckel re- 
frained from launching a single one of his many boys on such a course. 
Conversely, Bormann sent one of his sons to an Adolf Hitler School as 

In Bormann s mind, the Kirchenkampf, the campaign against the 
churches, was useful for reactivating party ideology which had been lying 
dormant. He was the driving force behind this campaign, as was time and 
again made plain to our round table. Hitler was hesitant, but only because 
he would rather postpone this problem to a more favorable time. Here in 
Berlin, surrounded by male cohorts, he spoke more coarsely and bluntly 
than he ever did in the midst of his Obersalzberg entourage. "Once I have 
settled my other problems," he occasionally declared, 'Til have my reckon- 
ing with the church. Ill have it reeling on the ropes." 

But Bormann did not want this reckoning postponed. Brutally direct 
himself, he could ill tolerate Hitlers prudent pragmatism. He therefore 
took every opportunity to push his own projects. Even at meals he broke 
the unspoken rule that no subjects were to be raised which might spoil 
Hitlers humor. Bormann had developed a special technique for such 
thrusts. He would draw one of the members of the entourage into telling 
him about seditious speeches a pastor or bishop had delivered, until Hitler 
finally became attentive and demanded details. Bormann would reply 
that something unpleasant had happened and did not want to bother 
Hitler with it during the meal. At this Hitler would probe further, while 
Bormann pretended that he was reluctantly letting the story be dragged 
from him. Neither the angry looks from his fellow guests nor Hitler s 
gradually flushing face deterred him from going on. At some point he 
would take a document from his pocket and begin reading passages from 
a defiant sermon or a pastoral letter. Frequently Hitler became so worked 
up that he began to snap his fingers— a sure sign of his anger— pushed away 
his food and vowed to punish the offending clergyman eventually. He 
could much more easily put up with foreign indignation and criticism than 
opposition at home. That he could not immediately retaliate raised him to 
a white heat, though he usually managed to control himself quite well. 

Hitler had no humor. He left joking to others, although he could laugh 
loudly, abandonedly, sometimes literally writhing with laughter. Often 
he would wipe tears from his eyes during such spasms. He liked laughing, 
but it was always laughter at the expense of others. 

Goebbels was skilled at entertaining Hitler with jokes while at the 


same time demolishing any rivals in the internal struggle for power. "You 
know," he once related, "the Hitler Youth asked us to issue a press release 
for the twenty-fifth birthday of its staff chief, Lauterbacher. So I sent 
along a draft of the text to the effect that he had celebrated this birthday 
'enjoying full physical and mental vigor/ We heard no more from him." 
Hitler doubled up with laughter, and Goebbels had achieved his end of 
cutting the conceited youth leader down to size. 

To the dinner guests in Berlin, Hitler repeatedly talked about his 
youth, emphasizing the strictness of his upbringing. "My father often 
dealt me hard blows. Moreover, I think that was necessary and helped 
me." Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior, interjected in his bleat- 
ing voice: "As we can see today, it certainly did you good, mein Fiihrer!' 
A numb, horrified silence around the table. Frick tried to save the situa- 
tion: "I mean, mein Fiihrer, that is why you have come so far." Goebbels, 
who considered Frick a hopeless fool, commented sarcastically: "I would 
guess you never received a beating in your youth, Frick." 

Walther Funk, who was both Minister of Economics and president of 
the Reichsbank, told stories about the outlandish pranks that his vice presi- 
dent, Brinkmann, had gone on performing for months, until it was finally 
realized that he was mentally ill. In telling such stories Funk not only 
wanted to amuse Hitler but to inform him in this casual way of events 
which would sooner or later reach his ears. Brinkmann, it seemed, had 
invited the cleaning women and messenger boys of the Reichsbank to a 
grand dinner in the ballroom of the Hotel Bristol, one of the best hotels 
in Berlin, where he played the violin for them. This sort of thing rather 
fitted in with the regime's propaganda of all Germans forming one "folk 
community." But as everyone at table laughed, Funk continued: "Re- 
cently he stood in front of the Ministry of Economics on Unter den Linden, 
took a large package of newly printed banknotes from his briefcase— as 
you know, the notes bear my signature— and gave them out to passers-by, 
saying: *Who wants some of the new Funks?* "* Shortly afterward, Funk 
continued, the poor man's insanity had become plain for all to see. He 
called together all the employees of the Reichsbank. " 'Everyone older 
than fifty to the left side, the younger employees to the right/ " Then, to 
one man on the right side: "'How old are you?*— 'Forty-nine sir/— Tfou 
go to the left too. Well now, all on the left side are dismissed at once, and 
what is more with a double pension/ " 

Hitler s eyes filled with tears of laughter. When he had recovered, 
he launched into a monologue on how hard it sometimes is to recognize 
a madman. In this roundabout way Funk was also accomplishing another 
end. Hitler did not yet know that the Reichsbank vice president in his 
irresponsible state had given Goering a check for several million marks. 

* A pun in German; Furiken = sparks.— Translators' note. 

125 ) A Day in the Chancellery 

Goering cashed the check without a qualm. Later on, of course, Goering 
vehemently objected to the thesis that Brinkmann did not know what he 
was doing. Funk could expect him to present this point of view to Hitler. 
Experience had shown that the person who first managed to suggest a 
particular version of an affair to Hitler had virtually won his point, for 
Hitler never liked to alter a view he had once expressed. Even so, Funk 
had difficulties recovering those millions of marks from Goering. 

A favorite target of Goebbels's jokes and the subject of innumerable 
anecdotes was Rosenberg, whom Goebbels liked to call "the Reich philos- 
opher." On this subject Goebbels could be sure that Hitler agreed with 
him. He therefore took up the theme so frequently that the stories re- 
sembled carefully rehearsed theatrical performances in which the various 
actors were only waiting for their cues. Hitler was almost certain to inter- 
ject at some point: "The Volkischer Beobachter is just as boring as its 
editor, Rosenberg. You know, we have a so-called humor sheet in the 
party, Die Brennessel. The dreariest rag imaginable. And on the other 
hand the VB is nothing but a humor sheet." Goebbels also made game of 
the printer Miiller, who was doing his best both to keep the party and not 
to lose his old customers, who came from strictly Catholic circles in Upper 
Bavaria. His printing program was certainly versatile, ranging from pious 
calendars to Rosenberg's antichurch writings. But Miiller was allowed 
considerable leeway; in the twenties he had gone on printing the Vol- 
kischer Beobachter no matter how large the bill grew. 

Many jokes were carefully prepared, tied up as they were with actual 
events, so that Hitler was kept abreast of interparty developments under 
the guise of foolery. Again, Goebbels was far better at this than all the 
others, and Hitler gave him further encouragement by showing that he 
was very much amused. 

An old party member, Eugen Hadamowski, had obtained a key 
position as Reichssendeleiter (Head of Broadcasting for the Reich), but 
now he was longing to be promoted to Leiter des Reichsrundfunks (Head 
of the Reich Radio System). The Propaganda Minister, who had another 
candidate, was afraid that Hitler might back Hadamowski because he 
had skillfully organized the public address systems for the election cam- 
paigns before 1933. He had Hanke, state secretary in the Propaganda 
Ministry, send for the man and officially informed him that Hitler had just 
appointed him Reichsintendant (General Director) for radio. At the table 
Hitler was given an account of how Hadamowski had gone wild with joy 
at this news. The description was, no doubt, highly colored and exagger- 
ated, so that Hitler took the whole affair as a great joke. Next day Goeb- 
bels had a few copies of a newspaper printed reporting on the sham 
appointment and praising the new appointee in excessive terms. He out- 
lined the article for Hitler, with all its ridiculous phrases, and acted out 
Hadamowski's rapture upon reading these things about himself. Once 


more Hitler and the whole table with him was convulsed. That same day 
Hanke asked the newly appointed Reichsintendant to make a speech into 
a dead microphone, and once again there was endless merriment at 
Hitler s table when the story was told. After this, Goebbels no longer had 
to worry that Hitler would intervene in favor of Hadamowski. It was a 
diabolic game; the ridiculed man did not have the slightest opportunity 
to defend himself and probably never realized that the practical joke was 
carefully plotted to make him unacceptable to Hitler. No one could even 
know whether what Goebbels was describing was true or whether he was 
giving his imagination free rein. 

From one point of view, Hitler was the real dupe of these intrigues. 
As far as I could observe, Hitler was in fact no match for Goebbels in 
such matters; with his more direct temperament he did not understand 
this sort of cunning. But it certainly should have given one pause that 
Hitler allowed this nasty game to go on and even encouraged it. One word 
of displeasure would certainly have stopped this sort of thing for a long 
while to come. 

I often asked myself whether Hitler was open to influence. He surely 
could be swayed by those who knew how to manage him. Hitler was 
mistrustful, to be sure. But he was so in a cruder sense, it often seemed 
to me; for he did not see through clever chess moves or subtle manipula- 
tion of his opinions. He had apparently no sense for methodical deceit. 
Among the masters of that art were Goering, Goebbels, Bormann, and, 
within limits, Himmler. Since those who spoke out in candid terms on the 
important questions usually could not make Hitler change his mind, the 
cunning men naturally gained more and more power. 

Let me conclude my account of afternoon dinners in the Chancellery 
by relating another joke of this perfidious type. This time the target was 
the foreign press chief, Putzi Hanfstaengl, whose close personal ties with 
Hitler were a source of uneasiness to Goebbels. Goebbels began casting 
aspersions on Hanfstaengl's character, representing him as miserly, money 
grubbing, and of dubious honesty. He once brought in a phonograph 
record of an English song and attempted to prove that Hanfstaengl had 
stolen its melody for a popular march he had composed. 

The foreign press chief was already under a cloud when Goebbels, 
at the time of the Spanish Civil War, told the table company that Hanf- 
staengl had made adverse remarks about the fighting spirit of the German 
soldiers in combat there. Hitler was furious. This cowardly fellow who had 
no right to judge the courage of others must be given a lesson, he declared. 
A few days later Hanfstaengl was informed that he must make a plane 
trip; he was given sealed orders from Hitler which were not to be opened 
until after the plane had taken off. Once in the air, Hanfstaengl read, 
horrified, that he was to be put down in "Red Spanish territory" where 
he was to work as an agent for Franco. At the table Goebbels told Hitler 

127 ) -A Day in the Chancellery 

every detail: How Hanfstaengl pleaded with the pilot to turn back; it 
must all be a misunderstanding, he insisted. But the plane, Goebbels 
related, continued circling for hours over German territory, in the clouds. 
The passenger was given false location reports, so that he believed he was 
approaching closer and closer to Spanish territory. Finally the pilot an- 
nounced that he had to make an emergency landing and set the plane 
down safely at Leipzig airport. Hanfstaengl, who only then realized that 
he had been the victim of a bad joke, began asserting that there was a 
plot against his life and soon afterward vanished without a trace. 

All the chapters in this story elicited great merriment at Hitler's table 
—all the more so since in this case Hitler had plotted the joke together 
with Goebbels. But when word came a few days later that the missing 
press chief had sought asylum abroad, Hitler became afraid that Hanf- 
staengl would collaborate with the foreign press and profit by his inti- 
mate knowledge of the Third Reich. But for all his reputation for money 
grubbing, Hanfstaengl did nothing of the sort. 

I, too, found myself going along with this streak in Hitler, who 
seemed to enjoy destroying the reputation and self-respect of even his 
close associates and faithful comrades in the struggle for power. But 
although I was still under Hitler's spell, my feeling had evolved consider- 
ably from what it had been during the early years of our association. See- 
ing him daily as I did, I acquired some perspective and occasionally a 
capacity for critical observation. 

My close relation with him, moreover, centered increasingly around 
architecture. To be able to serve him with all my ability and to translate 
his architectural ideas into reality still filled me with enthusiasm. In 
addition, the larger and more important my building assignments became, 
the more respect others paid me. I was on the way, I thought at the time, 
to creating a body of work that would place me among the most famous 
architects of history. My sense of this also made me feel that I was not 
just the recipient of Hitler's favor. Rather, I was offering him a return 
of equal value for having established me as an architect. What is more, 
Hitler treated me like a colleague and often made it clear that I stood 
above him where architecture was concerned. 

Dining with Hitler regularly meant a considerable loss of time, for 
we sat at table until half past four in the afternoon. Naturally, hardly 
anyone could afford to squander so much time every day. I too went to 
the meals no more than once or twice a week, for otherwise I would have 
had to neglect my work. 

Yet it was important for one's prestige to attend these dinners. More- 
over, it was important to most of the guests to be kept abreast of Hitler s 
daily opinions. The round table was useful to Hitler himself as well, for 
in this way he could casually and effortlessly hand down a political line 


or slogan. On the other hand, Hitler was apt to speak little about his own 
work, say about the outcome of an important conference. Whenever he 
did allude to such matters, it was usually for the purpose of commenting 
critically upon an interlocutor. 

Some of the guests would throw out their bait during the meal itself, 
in hopes of being granted a special interview with Hitler. They would 
mention that they had brought along photographs of the latest stage of 
a building project. Other favorite baits were photographs of the sets for 
some newly staged work, preferably a Wagner opera or an operetta. But 
the infallible attraction was always: "Mein Fuhrer, I have brought you 
new building plans." The guest who said that could be fairly certain that 
Hitler would reply: "Oh, good, show them to me right after dinner." To 
be sure, the other diners frowned on such direct approaches. But other- 
wise one might wait for months before receiving an official appointment 
to see Hitler. 

When the meal was over, Hitler rose, the guests said brief good-bys, 
and the favored guest was led into the adjacent salon, which for some 
inexplicable reason was called the "conservatory." On such occasions 
Hitler would often say to me: "Wait a moment. There's something I'd like 
to discuss with you." The moment often turned into an hour or more. 
Then Hitler would have me called in. Now he behaved quite informally, 
sat opposite me in one of the comfortable chairs and inquired about the 
progress of my buildings. 

By this time it was often six o'clock. Hitler went to his rooms on the 
upper floor, while I drove to my office, frequently for only a short time. 
The adjutant might telephone to say that Hitler had asked me to come to 
supper, which meant I had to return to the Chancellor's apartment two 
hours later. But often, when I had plans to show, I went unasked. 

From six to eight persons would assemble on those evenings: his 
adjutants, his doctor, the photographer Hoffmann, one or two Munich 
acquaintances, quite often Hitler's pilot Bauer along with his radio man 
and onboard mechanic, and the inevitable Bormann. This was the most 
private circle in Berlin, for political associates such as Goebbels were 
usually not wanted in the evenings. The level of the conversations was a 
distinct stage lower than at the afternoon affairs. The talk wandered off 
into trivialities. Hitler liked to hear about the theater. Scandals also in- 
terested him. The pilot talked about flying; Hoffmann contributed anec- 
dotes about Munich artistic circles and reported on his art collecting. But 
usually Hitler would tell stories about his life and development. 

The meal again consisted of simple dishes. Kannenberg, the house 
steward, did try a few times to serve better food for these rather pri- 
vate meals. For a few weeks Hitler actually ate caviar by the spoonful 
with gusto, and praised the taste, which was new to him. But then he 
asked Kannenberg about the price, was horrified, and gave strict orders 

129 ) A Day in the Chancellery 

against having that again. Thereupon the cheaper red caviar was served 
him, but that too he rejected as an extravagance. To be sure, these ex- 
penses were insignificant in comparison with the total outlay for the 
Chancellor's household. But the idea of a caviar-eating Leader was incom- 
patible with Hitler s conception of himself. 

After supper the company moved into the salon, which was other- 
wise reserved for official occasions. Everyone settled into easy chairs; 
Hitler unbuttoned his jacket and stretched out his legs. The lights slowly 
dimmed, while household employees, including some of the women, and 
members of Hitler s bodyguard were admitted through a rear door. The 
first movie began. There we sat, as at Obersalzberg, mute for some three 
or four hours, and when these films came to an end at about one in the 
morning, we stood up stiff and dazed. Hitler alone seemed sprightly; he 
discoursed on the actors' performances, spoke appreciatively of the art of 
one of his favorite actors, then went on to other subjects. The conversa- 
tion was continued at a sluggish pace in the small drawing room. Beer, 
wine, and sandwiches were handed around, until Hitler at last said good 
night at about two o'clock in the morning. I frequently reflected that 
this mediocre group was assembling at the same spot where Bismarck 
used to talk brilliantly with friends and political associates. 

A few times I suggested inviting a famous pianist or a scientist, 
in order to introduce a new element into the monotony of these evenings. 
But Hitler always fended off anything of this sort. "The artists would 
not be so eager to come as they say." In fact many of them would have 
regarded such an invitation as a distinction. Probably Hitler did not 
want to have the sluggish, banal conclusion of his daily routine dis- 
turbed; he was fond of it. Moreover, I often observed that Hitler felt a 
certain shyness toward people of high standing in some professional 
field. He did receive them occasionally, but in the reserved atmosphere 
of an official audience. Perhaps that was one of the reasons he had 
picked out so very young an architect as myself. He did not feel such an 
inferiority complex toward me. 

During the early years after 1933 the adjutants were permitted to 
invite ladies, some of them screen stars selected by Goebbels. But as a 
rule only married women were admitted, usually with their husbands. 
Hitler followed this rule in order to forestall rumors which might harm 
the image shaped by Goebbels of a Leader whose style of life was 
absolutely respectable. Toward these women Hitler behaved rather 
like the graduate of a dance class at the final dance. He displayed 
a shy eagerness to do nothing wrong, to offer a sufficient number of 
compliments, and to welcome them and bid them good-by with the 
Austrian kissing of the hand. When the party was over, he usually sat 
around for a while with his private circle to rave a bit about the women. 
He spoke more about their figures than their charm or cleverness, and 


always there was something in his tone of the schoolboy who is con- 
vinced that his wishes are unattainable. Hitler loved tall, full-figured 
women; Eva Braun, who was rather small and delicate of build, was 
actually not at all his type. 

Abruptly, some time in 1935, as I recall, this practice ceased from 
one day to the next. I never learned the reason for this; perhaps it was 
due to some gossip. Whatever the reason, Hitler suddenly announced 
that henceforth the invitations to women were to stop. From then on he 
contented himself with the stars in the nightly movies. 

Around 1939 Eva Braun was assigned a bedroom in the Berlin 
residence. It adjoined his; the windows looked out on a narrow court- 
yard. Here even more than in Obersalzberg she led a completely isolated 
life, stealing into the building through a side entrance and going up a 
rear staircase, never descending into the lower rooms, even when there 
were only old acquaintances in the apartment, and she was overjoyed 
whenever I kept her company during her long hours of waiting. 

In Berlin, Hitler very seldom went to the theater, except to see 
operettas. He would never miss a new production of the by now classical 
operettas such as Die Fledermaus and The Merry Widow. I am certain 
that I saw Die Fledermaus with him at least five or six times in cities 
all over Germany. He customarily contributed considerable sums from 
Bormann s privy purse to have the operetta put on in lavish style. 

In addition he liked revues. He went to the Wintergarten several 
times to attend a Berlin variety show and would certainly have gone 
more frequently but for the fact that he was embarrassed to be seen there. 
Sometimes he sent his house steward in his place and then late in the 
evening would look over the program and ask for an account of what 
had gone on. Several times he also went to the Metropol Theater which 
put on insipid musicals with plenty of scantily clad girls. 

During the Bayreuth Festival every year he attended every single 
performance of the first cycle. It seemed to a musical layman like myself 
that in his conversations with Frau Winifred Wagner he displayed 
knowledge about musical matters in detail; but he was even more con- 
cerned about the directing. 

Aside from Bayreuth, however, he very seldom attended performances 
of operas, and his initially rather keen interest in theater also dwindled. 
Even his enthusiasm for Bruckner never seemed very marked and im- 
posed no obligations on others. Although a movement from a Bruckner 
symphony was played before each of his "cultural speeches" at the 
Nuremberg Party Rallies, for the rest he merely took care that Bruckner's 
works continued to be fostered at St. Florian. He saw to it, however, that 
his public image of a man passionately devoted to art was cultivated. 

I never found out whether and to what extent Hitler had an interest 
in literature. Mostly he talked about books on military science, naval 

131 ) A Day in the Chancellery 

matters and architecture, which he would pore over with great interest 
during the night hours. On other books he made no comment. 

I myself threw all my strength into my work and was baffled at 
first by the way Hitler squandered his working time. I could understand 
that he might wish his day to trail off in boredom and pastimes; but 
to my notion this phase of the day, averaging some six hours, proved 
rather long, whereas the actual working session was by comparison 
relatively short. When, I would often ask myself, did he really work? 
Little was left of the day; he rose late in the morning and conducted 
one or two official conferences; but from the subsequent dinner on he 
more or less wasted time until the early hours of the evening. 1 His rare 
appointments in the late afternoon were imperiled by his passion for 
looking at building plans. The adjutants often asked me: "Please don't 
show any plans today." Then the drawings I had brought with me would 
be left by the telephone switchboard at the entrance, and I would reply 
evasively to Hitler's inquiries. Sometimes he saw through this game and 
would himself go to look in the anteroom or the cloakroom for my roll 
of plans. 

In the eyes of the people Hitler was the Leader who watched over 
the nation day and night. This was hardly so. But Hitler's lax scheduling 
could be regarded as a life style characteristic of the artistic temperament. 
According to my observations, he often allowed a problem to mature dur- 
ing the weeks when he seemed entirely taken up with trivial matters. 
Then, after the "sudden insight" came, he would spend a few days of 
intensive work giving final shape to his solution. No doubt he also used 
his dinner and supper guests as sounding boards, trying out new ideas, 
approaching these ideas in a succession of different ways, tinkering with 
them before an uncritical audience, and thus perfecting them. Once he 
had come to a decision, he relapsed again into his idleness. 


Our Empire Style 


after the last movie had been run, he sometimes asked to see my roll of 
drawings and studied every detail until two or three o'clock in the 
morning. The other guests withdrew for a glass of wine, or went home, 
aware that there would be little chance to have a word with Hitler once 
he was caught up in his ruling passion. 

Hitler's favorite project was our model city, which was set up 
in the former exhibition rooms of the Berlin Academy of Arts. In order 
to reach it undisturbed, he had doors installed in the walls between the 
Chancellery and our building and a communicating path laid out. Some- 
times he invited the supper guests to our studio. We would set out 
armed with flashlights and keys. In the empty halls spotlights illuminated 
the models. There was no need for me to do the talking, for Hitler, 
with flashing eyes, explained every single detail to his companions. 

There was keen excitement when a new model was set up and 
illuminated by brilliant spots from the direction in which the sun would 
fall on the actual buildings. Most of these models were made on a scale 
of 1:50; cabinetmakers reproduced every small detail, and the wood 
was painted to simulate the materials that would actually be used. In 
this way whole sections of the grand new avenue were gradually put 
together, and we could have a three-dimensional impression of the 
building intended to be a reality in a decade. This model street went on for 

( 13^ ) 

133 ) Our Empire Style 

about a hundred feet through the former exhibition rooms of the 
Academy of Arts. 

Hitler was particularly excited over a large model of the grand 
boulevard on a scale of 1 : 1000. He loved to "enter his avenue" at various 
points and take measure of the future effect. For example, he assumed 
the point of view of a traveler emerging from the south station or admired 
the great hall as it looked from the heart of the avenue. To do so, he 
bent down, almost kneeling, his eye an inch or so above the level of the 
model, in order to have the right perspective, and while looking he 
spoke with unusual vivacity. These were the rare times when he re- 
linquished his usual stiffness. In no other situation did I see him so 
lively, so spontaneous, so relaxed, whereas I myself, often tired and even 
after years never free of a trace of respectful constraint, usually remained 
taciturn. One of my close associates summed up the character of this 
remarkable relationship: "Do you know what you are? You are Hitlers 
unrequited lovel" 

These rooms were kept under careful guard and no one was allowed 
to inspect the grand plan for the rebuilding of Berlin without Hitler s 
express permission. Once, when Goering had examined the model of the 
grand boulevard, he had his escort walk on ahead, then said in a deeply 
moved tone: "A few days ago the Fuehrer spoke to me about my mission 
after his death. He leaves me free to handle everything as I think best. 
But he made me promise one thing, that I would never replace you by 
anyone else after his death; that I would not tamper with your plans, 
but let you take complete charge. And that I must place the money for the 
buildings at your disposal, all the money you ask for." Goering made an 
emotional pause. "I solemnly took the Fuehrer's hand and promised him 
that, and I now make the same promise to you." Whereupon, he gave me a 
long and sentimental handshake. 

My father, too, came to see the work of his now famous son. He 
only shrugged his shoulders at the array of models: "You've all gone 
completely crazy." The evening of his visit we went to the theater and 
saw a comedy in which Heinz Riihmann was appearing. By chance Hitler 
was at the same performance. During the intermission he sent one of 
his adjutants to ask whether the old gentleman sitting beside me was my 
father; then he asked us both to his box. When my father— still erect 
and self-controlled in spite of his seventy-five years— was introduced 
to Hitler, he was overcome by a violent quivering such as I had never 
seen him exhibit before, nor ever did again. He turned pale, did not 
respond to Hitler's lavish praise of his son, and then took his leave 
in silence. Later, my father never mentioned this meeting, and I too 
avoided asking him about the fit of nerves that the sight of Hitler had 
produced in him. 


"You ve all gone completely crazy." Nowadays, when I leaf through 
the numerous photos of models of our one-time grand boulevard, I see 
that it would have turned out not only crazy, but also boring. 

We had, of course, recognized that lining the new avenue solely 
with public buildings would lead to a certain lifelessness and had there- 
fore reserved two-thirds of the length of the street for private buildings. 
With Hitler's support we fended off efforts by various government 
agencies to displace these business buildings. We had no wish for an 
avenue consisting solely of ministries. A luxurious movie house for 
premieres, another cinema for the masses accommodating two thousand 
persons, a new opera house, three theaters, a new concert hall, a building 
for congresses, the so-called House of the Nations, a hotel of twenty- 
one stories, variety theaters, mass and luxury restaurants, and even an 
indoor swimming pool, built in Roman style and as large as the baths 
of Imperial Rome, were deliberately included in the plans with the idea 
of bringing urban life into the new avenue. 1 There were to be quiet 
interior courtyards with colonnades and small luxury shops set apart 
from the noise of the street and inviting strollers. Electric signs were to be 
employed profusely. The whole avenue was also conceived by Hitler 
and me as a continuous sales display of German goods which would 
exert a special attraction upon foreigners. 

Whenever, nowadays, I look through the plans and the photos of the 
models, even these varied parts of the avenue strike me as lifeless and 
regimented. When on the morning after my release from imprisonment 
I passed one of these buildings on the way to the airport, 2 I saw in a few 
seconds what I had been blind to for years: our plan completely lacked 
a sense of proportion. We had set aside block units of between five 
hundred feet and six hundred and sixty feet even for private businesses. 
A uniform height had been imposed on all the buildings, as well as on 
all the store fronts. Skyscrapers, however, were banished from the fore- 
ground. Thus we deprived ourselves of all the contrasts essential for 
animating and loosening the pattern. The entire conception was stamped 
by a monumental rigidity that would have counteracted all our efforts to 
introduce urban life into this avenue. 

Our happiest concept, comparatively speaking, was the central 
railroad station, the southern pole of Hitler's grand boulevard. The 
station, its steel ribbing showing through sheathings of copper and 
glass, would have handsomely offset the great blocks of stone dominating 
the rest of the avenue. It provided for four traffic levels linked by 
escalators and elevators and was to surpass New York's Grand Central 
Station in size. 

State visitors would have descended a large outside staircase. The 
idea was that as soon as they, as well as ordinary travelers, stepped 
out of the station they would be overwhelmed, or rather stunned, by the 

x 35 ) Our Empire Style 

urban scene and thus the power of the Reich. The station plaza, thirty- 
three hundred feet long and a thousand feet wide, was to be lined 
with captured weapons, after the fashion of the Avenue of Rams which 
leads from Karnak to Luxor. Hitler conceived this detail after the cam- 
paign in France and came back to it again in the late autumn of 1941, 
after his first defeats in the Soviet Union. 

This plaza was to be crowned by Hitlers great arch or "Arch of 
Triumph," as he only occasionally called it. Napoleon s Arc de Triomphe 
on the Place de l'Etoil e with its one-hundred-sixty-foot height certainly 
presents a monumental appearance and provides a majestic terminus 
to the Champs Elysees. Our triumphal arch, five hundred and fifty feet 
wide, three hundred and ninety-two feet deep, and three hundred and 
eighty-six feet high, would have towered over all the other buildings on 
this southern portion of the avenue and would literally have dwarfed 

After trying a few times in vain, I no longer had the courage to 
urge any changes on Hitler. This was the heart of his plan; he had 
conceived it long before encountering the purifying influence of Pro- 
fessor Troost, and the arch was the classic example of the architectural 
fantasies he had worked out in his lost sketchbook of the twenties. He 
remained impervious to all my hints that the monument might be im- 
proved by a change of proportions or a simplification of lines and did 
not demur when on the plans I delicately indicated the architect by three 
Xs. Everyone would know who the "anonymous" architect was. 

Sighting through the two hundred sixty foot opening of the great 
arch, the arriving traveler would see at the end of a three-mile vista 
the street's second great triumphal structure rearing out of the haze of the 
metropolis: the great hall with its enormous dome, described in an 
earlier chapter. 

Eleven separate ministry buildings adorned the avenue between the 
triumphal arch and the great hall. I had already designed quarters for 
the ministries of the Interior, Transportation, Justice, Economics, and 
Food when, after 1941, I was told to include a Colonial Ministry in my 
plans. 3 In other words, even after the invasion of Russia, Hitler was 
dreaming of acquiring German colonies. The ministers, who hoped that 
our program would result in concentration of their offices, now dis- 
tributed throughout Berlin, were disappointed. For by Hitler's decree 
the new buildings were to serve chiefly for purposes of prestige, not for 
the housing of the bureaucratic apparatus. 

After the monumental central section, the avenue once more resumed 
its business and entertainment character for a distance of more than half 
a mile and ended with the round plaza at the intersection with Potsdamer 
Strasse. Proceeding northward it once more began to be ceremonial. On 
the right rose Soldiers' Hall, designed by Wilhelm Kreis: a huge cube 


whose purpose Hitler had never stated frankly, but was probably to be 
a combination of armory and veterans' memorial. At any rate, after the 
armistice with France he gave orders that the dining car in which the 
surrender of Germany had been signed in 1918 and the surrender of 
France in 1940 was to be brought here as the hall's first exhibit. A 
crypt was planned for the tombs of celebrated German field marshals of 
the past, present, and future. 4 Stretching westward behind the hall as 
far as Bendlerstrasse were to be the buildings for a new High Command 
of the Army. 5 

After inspecting these plans Goering felt that his Air Ministry had 
been demoted. He asked me to be his architect,* and opposite the 
soldiers' hall, on the edge of the Tiergarten, we found an ideal building 
site for his purposes. Goering was enraptured by my plans for his new 
building (which after 1940 went by the name of Office of the Reich 
Marshal, in order to do justice to the multitude of positions he held), but 
Hitler was less so. "The building is too big for Goering," he commented. 
"He's puffing himself up too much. All in all, I don't like his taking my 
architect for that purpose." Although he privately grumbled a good deal 
over Goering's plans, he never found the courage to speak out on the 
matter. Goering knew Hitler and reassured me: "Just let the matter be 
and don't worry about it. We'll build it that way, and in the end the 
Fuehrer will be delighted." 

Hitler often showed similar forbearance in personal matters. Thus 
he overlooked the marital misdemeanors of his entourage— unless, as in 
the Blomberg case, 6 the scandal could be made to serve a political pur- 
pose. He could also smile at someone's craving for pomp and make acid 
remarks in private without so much as hinting to the person concerned 
that he disapproved of his conduct. 

The design for Goering's headquarters provided for extensive series 
of stairways, halls, and salons which took up more room than the offices 
themselves. The heart of the building was to be an imposing hall with 
a great flight of stairs rising through four stories, which would never 
have been used since everyone would of course have taken the elevator. 
The whole thing was pure spectacle. This was a decisive step in my per- 
sonal development from the neoclassicism I had first espoused, and which 
was perhaps still to be seen in the new Chancellery, to a blatant nouveau 
riche architecture of prestige. An entry for May 5, 1941, in my office 
journal records that the Reich Marshal was highly pleased with the model 
of his building. The staircase especially delighted him. Here he would 
stand, he declared, when he proclaimed the watchword of the year for the 
officers of the air force. The office journal preserves more of his magnil- 

* Despite my official position as General Inspector of Buildings, Hitler allowed 
me to design major buildings as a private architect. The general procedure for the 
reconstruction of Berlin was to call in private architects to design the official build- 
ings as well as the commercial buildings. 

137 ) Our Empire Style 

oquence. "In tribute to this, the greatest staircase in the world," Goering 
continued, "Breker must create a monument to the Inspector General of 
Buildings. It will be installed here to commemorate forever the man who 
so magnificently shaped this building." 

This part of the ministry, with its eight hundred feet of frontage 
on the grand boulevard, was supplemented by a wing of equal size, on 
the Tiergarten side, which contained the ballrooms Goering had stipulated 
as well as his private apartment. I situated the bedrooms on the top story. 
Alleging the need for air-raid protection, I decided to cover the roof with 
thirteen feet of garden soil, which meant that even large trees would 
have been able to strike root there. Thus I envisioned a two and a half 
acre roof garden, with swimming pools and tennis courts, fountains, 
ponds, colonnades, pergolas, and refreshment rooms, and finally a sum- 
mer theater for two hundred and forty spectators above the roofs of 
Berlin. Goering was overwhelmed and began raving about the parties 
he would hold there. "I'll illuminate the great dome with Bengal lights 
and provide grand fireworks for my guests." 

Without the basements, Goering's building would have had a volume 
of seven hundred and fifty-four thousand cubic yards; the volume of 
Hitler s newly built Chancellery was only five hundred and twenty 
thousand cubic yards. Nevertheless, Hitler did not feel that Goering had 
outstripped him. In that speech of August 1, 1938, in which he disclosed 
so many of his theories on architecture, Hitler let it be known that accord- 
ing to the great plan for the rebuilding of Berlin the newly completed 
Chancellery would be used for ten or twelve years. The plan, he said, 
provided for a residence and seat of government many times larger. 
After an inspection of Hess's party headquarters in Berlin, Hitler had 
abruptly decided on the final destiny of the Voss Strasse Chancellery. At 
Hess's headquarters Hitler was unpleasantly impressed by a stairwell 
painted a fiery red and furnishings that were considerably plainer and 
more austere than the ocean-liner style he and the other party and 
government leaders inclined toward. Back at the Chancellery, Hitler 
criticized his deputy's taste in no uncertain terms: "Hess is totally un- 
artistic. I must never let him build anything new. After a while he'll 
receive the present Chancellery as his headquarters, and he won't be 
allowed to make the slightest changes in it, because he's completely 
ignorant on such matters." This kind of criticism, especially of a man's 
aesthetic judgment, could sometimes spell an end to a career, and in the 
case of Rudolf Hess it was generally so taken. But Hitler never said a 
word of this to Hess. Hess could only observe that his standing must have 
fallen by the courtiers' reserved attitude toward him thereafter. 

There was to be a huge railroad station to the north as well as 
to the south of the city. Emerging from it, the visitor would face a 
basin of water thirty-three hundred feet long and eleven hundred and 


fifty-five feet wide, across which the great dome was to be seen a mile 
away. We did not intend to take our water from the Spree, polluted as it 
was by the filth of the city. As a lover of water sports, I wanted this 
artificial lake to be clean enough for swimming. Dressing cabins, boat- 
houses, and refreshment terraces were to line this vast open-air pool in the 
heart of the city; presumably it would have presented a remarkable con- 
trast to the massive buildings that were to be reflected in the lake. The 
reason for my lake was very simple: The marshy subsoil made the land 
unfit for building purposes. 

Three enormous buildings were to stand on the western side of the 
lake. In the middle would be the new Berlin Town Hall, some fifteen 
hundred feet in length. Hitler and I favored different designs; after many 
discussions my arguments prevailed, even against Hitler's persistent op- 
position. The Town Hall was flanked by the new High Command of the 
Navy and the new Berlin Police Headquarters. On the eastern side of 
the lake, in the midst of gardened areas, a new German War Academy 
was to be built. The plans for all these buildings were completed. 

This avenue between the two central railroad stations was meant 
to spell out in architecture the political, military, and economic power 
of Germany. In the center sat the absolute ruler of the Reich, and in his 
immediate proximity, as the highest expression of his power, was the 
great domed hall which was to be the dominant structure of the future 
Berlin. At least the planning would reflect Hitler's statement: "Berlin 
must change its face in order to adapt to its great new mission." 7 

For five years I lived in this world of plans, and in spite of all 
their defects and absurdities I still cannot entirely tear myself away 
from it all. When I look deep into myself for the reasons for my present 
hatred of Hitler, I sometimes think that in addition to all the terrible 
things he perpetrated I should perhaps include the personal disappoint- 
ment his warmaking brought to me; but I also realize that these plans 
could only have sprung from his unscrupulous game of power. 

Designs of such scale naturally indicate a kind of chronic megalo- 
mania, which is reason enough to dwell on these grandiose plans. Yet 
that broad boulevard, those new central railroad stations with their 
underground communications, are not so excessive by present-day 
standards when skyscrapers and public buildings all over the world 
have reached similar proportions. Perhaps it was less their size than the 
way they violated the human scale that made them abnormal. The great 
domed hall, Hitler s future Chancellery, Goering's grandiose ministry, the 
Soldiers' Hall, and the triumphal arch— I saw all these buildings with 
Hitlers political eyes. Once, when we were contemplating the model 
city, he took my arm and with moist eyes confided: "Now do you under- 
stand why we are building all this on such a scale? The capital of the 
Germanic Empire— if only my health were good. . . ." 

139 ) Our Empire Style 

Hitler was in a hurry for work to start on the five-mile-long core 
of his plan. After involved calculations I promised him that all the 
buildings would be completed by 1950. This was the spring of 1939. 
I had imagined that in setting such an early date, based as it was on a 
nonstop work program, I would give him special pleasure, so I was 
somewhat dashed when he merely accepted this deadline. Perhaps he was 
thinking about his military plans, which of course made a mockery of my 

At other times, however, he was so intent upon finishing within 
the intended period and seemed to be looking forward to 1950 with such 
eagerness, that if his architectural fantasies were only meant to conceal 
his imperialistic aims they would have been the best of all his deceits. 
His frequent allusions to the political importance of this project should 
have alerted me to the real nature of his plans; but the way he seemed 
to assume that my building operations in Berlin would go forward 
undisturbed offset these suspicions. I was accustomed to his occasionally 
saying things that sounded hallucinatory; in retrospect it is easier to find 
the thread between this trancelike state and the building projects. 

Hitler was extremely concerned that our designs should not be 
publicized. Only parts were made known, since we could not work en- 
tirely in secret; too many persons were engaged on preliminary jobs. 
Thus we occasionally permitted glimpses of aspects of the plan that 
seemed innocuous, and Hitler even let me publish an article outlining the 
basic idea of our urban renewal. 8 But when the cabaret humorist Werner 
Fink made fun of these projects he was sent off to a concentration camp, 
although this may not have been his only sin. His arrest took place, 
incidentally, just the day before I meant to attend his show as proof 
that I was not offended. 

Our caution extended even to details. When we were considering 
tearing down the tower of the Berlin Town Hall, we launched a trial 
balloon by having State Secretary Karl Hanke insert a "reader's letter" 
in a Berlin newspaper. When angry protests from the populace poured 
in, I postponed the matter. Our aim in general was to spare the feelings 
of the public in carrying out our plans. Thus we considered, for example, 
what to do about charming Monbijou Palace, since a museum was planned 
for the site. We decided to reconstruct it in the park of Charlottenburg 
Palace. 9 Even the radio tower was to be preserved for similar reasons. 
The Victory Column, while it would break the line of our projected 
avenue, was also not to be razed. Hitler regarded it as a monument of 
German history. In fact, he was going to make the column more impres- 
sive by adding a tambour to increase its height. He drew a sketch of the 
improvement; the drawing has been preserved. In discussing the matter 
he made fun of the thrift practiced by the State of Prussia even at the 
height of its triumph, pinching pennies by saving on the height of its 


I estimated the total cost of the Berlin rebuilding at between four 
and six billion Reichsmark, which at present-day building costs would 
have been between 16 and 24 billion Deutsche Mark (DM). Spread over 
eleven years, this meant about five hundred million Reichsmark to be 
allocated annually to the project. This was by no means a Utopian pro- 
posal, for it amounted to only one twenty-fifth of the total volume of the 
German construction industry.* To further reassure myself, I proposed 
another comparison, though a highly dubious one. I calculated what per- 
centage of the total tax revenues of the Prussian state the notably thrifty 
King Frederick William I of Prussia, the father of Frederick the Great, 
had expended on his buildings in Berlin. It was many times our projected 
expenditures, which amounted to only 3 per cent of the 15 billion, 700 
million Reichsmark tax revenues. But the parallel was questionable be- 
cause the revenues of the early eighteenth century cannot be compared 
with the taxation of the present day. 

Professor Hettlage, my budgetary adviser, commented sardonically 
about our approach to the matter: "For the municipality of Berlin ex- 
penditures have to be governed by income; for us it is the other way 
around." 10 As Hitler and I saw it, our annual 500 million should not be 
represented as a single appropriation. Rather, it was to be divided among 
as many budgets as possible. Every ministry and every government office 
was to pay for its new quarters out of its individual budget, just as the 
government railroad system would pay for the modernization of its Berlin 
installations, and the city of Berlin for streets and subways. Private in- 
dustry would of course cover its own costs. 

By 1938 we had settled these details, and Hitler took some glee in 
the cunning of it all: "Distributed this way," he commented, "the cost 
of the whole thing wont attract attention. All that we'll finance ourselves 
will be the great hall and the triumphal arch. We'll call on the people 
to make contributions. In addition the Finance Minister is to place 60 
million annually at the disposal of your office. Whatever we don't use of 
this can be put aside for the future." By 1941 I had already accumulated 
218 million marks. 11 In 1943— the sum had meanwhile increased to three 
hundred twenty million— the Finance Minister proposed, and I agreed, 
that the account be quietly dissolved. We never said a word to Hitler 
about this. 

Finance Minister von Schwerin-Krosigk, aghast at this squandering 
of public funds, repeatedly made objections. Lest these disturb me, 
Hitler fetched up counter arguments: 

If the Finance Minister could realize what a source of income to the 
state my buildings will be in fifty years! Remember what happened with 

* According to Rolf Wagenfiihr, Die deutsche Industrie im Kriege 1939-1945 
(Berlin, 1954), 12.8 billion Reichsmarks were spent on building projects in 1939. 

141 ) Our Empire Style 

Ludwig II. Everyone said he was mad because of the cost of his palaces. 
But today? Most tourists go to Upper Bavaria solely to see them. The en- 
trance fees alone have long since paid for the building costs. Don't you 
agree? The whole world will come to Berlin to see our buildings. All we 
need do is tell the Americans how much the Great Hall cost. Maybe well 
exaggerate a bit and say a billion and a half instead of a billion. Then 
they'll be wild to see the most expensive building in the world. 

Each time he sat over the plans he was apt to repeat: "My only 
wish, Speer, is to live to see these buildings. In 1950 we'll organize a 
world's fair. Until then the buildings will remain empty, and then they'll 
serve as exhibition buildings. We'll invite the entire world." That was the 
way Hitler talked; it was difficult to guess his real thoughts. To console 
my wife, who saw the next eleven years devoted entirely to work with no 
prospect of any family life, I promised her a trip around the world in 1950. 

Hitler's idea of distributing the cost of the project over as many 
shoulders as possible actually worked out. For Berlin, wealthy, prospering 
and increasingly the center of national authority, attracted more and more 
government officials. Industries responded to this by making impressive 
additions to their Berlin headquarters. So far there had been only one 
avenue which functioned as "Berlin's show window": Unter den Linden. 
Big companies were lured to the broad new boulevard partly in the 
expectation of avoiding the traffic jams of the old prestige streets, partly 
because building lots were relatively cheap in this still undeveloped area. 
At the outset of my work I received many applications for building proj- 
ects which would otherwise have been scattered at random throughout 
the city. Thus, soon after Hitler's accession to power the large new 
building of the Reichsbank had been put up in an out-of-the-way quarter; 
several blocks had been torn down to make room for it. Incidentally, one 
day after dinner Himmler pointed out that the longitudinal and trans- 
verse wings had the shape of a Christian cross. This, he maintained, was 
obviously a veiled attempt on the part of the Catholic architect Wolf 
to glorify the Christian religion. Hitler knew enough about building to be 
merely amused by such points. 

Within a few months after the plans were finally drafted and even 
before the shifting of the railroad tracks had been completed, the first 
available section of the avenue, three quarters of a mile long, was as- 
signed to the various builders. Applications from ministries, private com- 
panies, and government departments for some of the other building sites, 
which would not be available for several years, increased to such an extent 
that all the sites along the entire four and a half miles were taken. What is 
more, we had to begin allocating sites south of the south station. With 
some difficulty we restrained Dr. Robert Ley, head of the German Labor 
Front, from using the enormous funds he collected from workmen's 


contributions to buy up a fifth of the entire length of the boulevard for 
his own purposes. Even so, he obtained a block a thousand feet in length, 
which he planned to make into a huge amusement area. 

Among the motives for this burst of building fever was, of course, 
the desire to curry favor with Hitler by erecting important edifices. Since 
the expenses for such buildings were higher than they would have been 
on ordinary sites, I suggested to Hitler that he commend the people who 
commissioned the buildings for all the additional millions they were 
spending. The idea appealed to him immediately. "Why not have a medal 
for those who have rendered service to art? We'll award it very rarely 
and chiefly to those who have financed a major building. A lot can be 
done with medals." Even the British Ambassador thought (and he was not 
wrong) that he was ingratiating himself with Hitler when he proposed 
building a new embassy within the framework of the Berlin renewal 
plan. Mussolini, too, was extremely interested in the project.* 

Although Hitler did not reveal the full extent of his ambitions in the 
realm of architecture, there was plenty of discussion about what he did 
make public. As a result, there was a boom in architecture. Had Hitler 
been interested in breeding horses, a passion for horse breeding would 
undoubtedly have sprung up among the leading men in the Reich. As it 
was, there was a veritable flood of designs with a Hitlerian cast. True, no 
such thing as a style of the Third Reich developed, but buildings took 
a definite cast, marked by certain eclectic elements. Soon this mode be- 
came almost universal. Yet Hitler was by no means doctrinaire. He realized 
full well that an autobahn restaurant or a Hitler Youth home in the 
country should not look like an urban building. Nor would it ever have 
occurred to him to build a factory in his public-display style; in fact, he 
could become enthusiastic over an industrial building in glass and steel. 
But any public building in a nation that was on the point of creating 
an empire must, he thought, have a particular stamp. 

The plans for Berlin inspired a host of designs for other urban 
programs. Every Gauleiter henceforth wanted to immortalize himself in 

* Sir Neville Henderson in Failure of a Mission (New York, 1940), p. 48, wrote: 

My idea, therefore, was to exchange the Embassy, which the German Gov- 
ernment would have been glad to use for government offices, for some large site 
on a corner of one of Hitler's new thoroughfares. ... I spoke both to Goering 
and Ribbentrop of this plan and asked them to let Hitler know that I contem- 
plated it. I suggested that they might inform him and that I meant one day to 
talk to him about it and hoped it would form part of a general understanding 
with Germany. 

According to the Office Journal, August 20, 1941, Alfieri mentioned that "the 
Duce takes an extraordinary interest in German architecture and has already asked 
him if he knows Speer." 

143 ) Our Empire Style 

his own city. Almost every one of the plans provided, as did my Berlin 
design, for intersecting axes; they imitated my design even to the orienta- 
tion. The Berlin model had become a rigid pattern. 

In conferring with me over plans, Hitler perpetually drew sketches 
of his own. They were casually tossed off but accurate in perspective; he 
drew outlines, cross sections, and renderings to scale. An architect could 
not have done better. Some mornings he would show me a well-executed 
sketch he had prepared overnight, but most of his drawings were done 
in a few hasty strokes during our discussions. 

I kept these quick sketches of Hitler's, noting their dates and sub- 
jects, and have preserved them to this day. It is interesting that of a 
total of one hundred and twenty-five such drawings, a good fourth of 
them relate to the Linz building project, which was always closest to his 
heart. Equally frequent are sketches for theaters. One morning he sur- 
prised me with a neatly drawn design for a commemorative shaft for 
Munich, which was to be a new symbol of the city dwarfing the towers of 
the Frauenkirche. He regarded this project, like the Berlin triumphal arch, 
as his very own, and did not hesitate to make revisions, based on his own 
sketch, in the design of a Munich architect. Even today these changes 
strike me as real improvements, providing better for the transition be- 
tween the static elements of the base and the dynamic thrust of the 

Hermann Giessler, whom Hitler commissioned to draw up the plans 
for Munich, could do marvelous imitations of Dr. Ley, the stammering 
Labor Front leader. Hitler was so delighted with this sort of comedy that 
he would ask Giessler again and again to tell the story of a visit by the 
Leys to the showrooms where the models for the Munich city plan were 
on exhibition. First, Giessler described how the leader of the German 
workers appeared at the studio in an elegant summer suit, with white 
stitched gloves and straw hat, accompanied by his wife, who was dressed 
with equal ostentation. Giessler showed him the Munich plan until Ley 
interrupted: 'Til build on this entire block. What will that cost? A few 
hundred millions? Yes, we want to build solidly. . . ." 

"And what will be the purpose of the building?" 

"A large fashion house. We'll set all the fashions. My wife will take 
care of that end. We need a whole building for it. Let's! My wife and 
I will set the German fashions. . . . And . . . and . . . and we'll need whores 
too! Lots of them, a whole house full, with the most modern furnishings. 
We'll take everything in hand; a few hundred millions for the building, 
that's nothing." Hitler laughed until the tears came over the depraved 
notions of his 'labor leader." Giessler, who had had to act out this scene 
innumerable times, was sick to death of it. 

My own building plans were not the only ones Hitler was ener- 
getically promoting. He was constantly approving forums for provincial 


capitals and urging his corps of leaders to officiate as patrons of public 
edifices. He liked to see a good deal of ruthless competition, since he 
assumed that this was the only road to outstanding achievement. This 
attitude of his often irritated me. He could not understand that there 
were limits to what we could do. Thus, he passed over my objection that 
before long it would be impossible for me to keep any deadlines because 
his Gauleiters were using up the available quarry materials for their 
own buildings. 

Himmler came to Hitlers aid. When he heard of the threatening 
shortage of brick and granite, he offered to employ his prisoners to 
increase production. He proposed to Hitler that an extensive brickworks 
be set up in Sachsenhausen, near Berlin, under SS direction and as SS 
property. Since Himmler was extremely receptive to innovations, some- 
one soon turned up with a new system for manufacturing brick. But 
the promised production did not follow, for the technique proved a 

Another promise made by Himmler, who was constantly pursuing 
futuristic projects, ended similarly. He offered to supply granite blocks 
for the buildings in Nuremberg and Berlin using the labor of concentra- 
tion camp prisoners. He immediately started a firm with a noncommital 
name and set the prisoners to breaking stone. Because of the incredible 
ignorance of the SS entrepreneurs, the blocks developed cracks, and the 
SS was finally forced to admit that it could supply only a small part of 
the promised granite. Dr. Todt's road-building organization took the rest 
of the material produced and used it for cobblestones. Hitler, who had 
placed great hopes in Himmlers promises, was more and more annoyed. 
Finally, he commented sarcastically that the SS had better devote itself 
to making felt slippers and paper bags, the traditional prison products. 

Out of the multitude of projects, I myself was to design the square 
in front of the great hall, at Hitler's request. In addition I had taken 
over Goering^ new building and the south station. That was more than 
enough, for I was also to design the Nuremberg Party Rally buildings. 
But since these various projects were to be carried out over a decade I 
was able to manage if I turned the technical details over to others, with 
a studio of eight to ten associates. It was still possible for me to keep 
personal control of a group that size. My private office was on Lindenallee 
in the West End, near Adolf Hitler Platz, which had formerly been Reichs- 
kanzler Platz. But my afternoons, until the late hours of the evening, were 
regularly reserved for my city-planning office in Pariser Platz. Here I 
assigned major commissions to those men I considered Germany's best 
architects. Paul Bonatz, after many designs for bridges, was given his 
first high-rise commission: the High Command of the Navy. Hitler was 
especially pleased with the grand scale of the design. German Bestelmeyer 

145 ) Our Empire Style 

was assigned the new Town Hall, Wilhelm Kreis the High Command of 
the Army, the Soldiers' Hall, and various museums. Peter Behrens, the 
teacher of Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, who had long worked 
for the AEG electrical company, was entrusted with building the firm's 
new administrative building on the grand boulevard. This naturally called 
forth objections from Rosenberg and his cultural watch-and-ward society; 
they were outraged that this forerunner of architectural radicalism should 
be allowed to win immortality on "the Fuehrer's avenue." Hitler, who 
thought well of Peter Behrens's embassy in Leningrad (built when the 
city was still St. Petersburg), backed up my decision. Several times 
I also pressed my teacher, Tessenow, to take part in the design competi- 
tions. But he did not want to abandon his simple small-town craftsman's 
style and stubbornly resisted the temptation to design big buildings. 

For sculpture I employed chiefly Josef Thorak and Arno Breker, the 
pupil of Maillol. In 1943, Breker acted as my intermediary in commission- 
ing a sculpture by Maillol to be set up in Grunewald. 

Historians have commented that in my private associations I kept 
away from the party.* It might also be said that the party bigwigs kept 
away from me, whom they regarded as an interloper. But I was not 
especially interested in what the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters felt, since I 
had Hitler's confidence. Aside from Karl Hanke, who had "discovered" 
me, I was not on familiar terms with any of them. None of them visited 
me at home. Instead, I found my circle of friends among the artists 
I gave employment to and among their friends. What time I had in Ber- 
lin for socializing I spent with Arno Breker and Wilhelm Kreis; we also 
frequently saw Wilhelm Kempff , the pianist. In Munich I was on friendly 
terms with Josef Thorak and Hermann Kaspar, the painter. Late in the 
night Kaspar could seldom be restrained from loudly proclaiming his 
preference for the Bavarian monarchy. 

I was also close to my first client, Dr. Robert Frank, for whom 
I had rebuilt a manor house back in 1933, before I became involved wi^h 
the buildings for Hitler and Goebbels. It was situated near Wilsnack 
some eighty miles from Berlin, and I frequently spent weekends there 
with my family. Until 1933, Frank had been general manager of the 
Prussian Electricity Works, but after the Nazis took power he was relieved 
of his post and had since lived in retirement. Occasionally bothered by 
the party, he was protected by my friendship. In 1945, I entrusted my 
family to him; there, in Schleswig, they were as far as possible from the 
center of the collapse. 

Shortly after my appointment I managed to persuade Hitler that 
party members of any quality had long since been assigned leading posts, 
so that only members of the second rank were available for my tasks. 

* For example, Trevor-Roper, Fest, and Bullock. 


He therefore gave me permission to choose my associates as I pleased. 
Gradually word went round that a sanctuary for nonparty people could 
be found in my office, and so more and more architects thronged to join us. 

Once one of my associates asked me for a reference for admission to 
the party. My answer went the rounds of the Inspectorate General of 
Building: "Why? It's enough for all of us that I'm in the party." We took 
Hitlers building plans seriously but were not so reverential as others 
about the solemnity of this Hitlerian Reich. 

I also continued to absent myself from party meetings, had scarcely 
any contact with party circles even in the Berlin district, and neglected 
the party duties turned over to me, although I could have built them 
up into positions of power. If only from sheer lack of time, I turned over 
the "Beauty of Work" office to a permanent deputy. I could plead my 
total incapacity for making public speeches as an excuse for this sort 
of lack of zeal. 

In March 1939, I took a trip with a group of close friends through 
Sicily and southern Italy. Wilhelm Kreis, Josef Thorak, Hermann Kaspar, 
Arno Breker, Robert Frank, Karl Brandt, and their wives, formed the par- 
ty. Magda Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister's wife, came along at our 
invitation; she used a false name for the journey. 

There were certainly a good many love affairs in Hitler's entourage, 
and he tolerated them. Thus Bormann, with a crudeness that might be 
expected from this unfeeling and amoral man, had his movie-actress 
mistress visit him at Obersalzberg and actually stay in his house in the 
midst of his family. Frau Bormann put up with this situation in a way 
I found incomprehensible. 

Goebbels, too, had many love affairs. Half amused, half revolted, 
his state secretary. JHanke. would tell how the all-powerful Minister of 
Culture would blackmail young movie actresses. But Goebbels's intimacy 
with the Czech film star Lida Baarova was more than an affair. At the 
time, his wife broke with him and demanded that he live separately 
from her and the children. Hanke and I were entirely on the wife's side, 
but Hanke himself complicated this marital crisis when he fell in love 
with his minister's wife, who was so many years his senior. In order 
to extricate her from this embarrassment, I proposed that she accompany 
us on the trip. Hanke wanted to follow her; during our travels he bom- 
barded her with love letters; but she was firm in her refusal. 

Throughout this trip, Frau Goebbels proved a pleasant and sensible 
woman. In general the wives of the regime's bigwigs resisted the tempta- 
tion of power far more than their husbands. They did not lose themselves 
in the latters' fantasy world. They looked on at the often grotesque antics 
of their husbands with inner reservations and were not caught up in 
the political whirlwind in which their men were carried steeply upward. 

147 ) Our Empire Style 

Frau Bormann remained a modest, somewhat browbeaten housewife, 
although blindly devoted both to her husband and the party ideology. 
I had the impression that Frau Goering was inclined to smile at her 
husband's mania for pomp. And in the final analysis Eva Braun, too, 
proved her inner superiority. At any rate she never used for personal ends 
the power which lay within her grasp. 

Sicily, with its Doric temple ruins in Segesta, Syracuse, Selinus, and 
Agrigentum, provided a valuable supplement to the impressions of our 
earlier journey to Greece. At the sight of the temples of Selinus and 
Agrigentum, I observed once again, and with some satisfaction, that even 
classical antiquity had not been free of megalomaniacal impulses. The 
Greeks of the colonies were obviously departing from the principle of 
moderation so praised in the motherland. Compared to these temples, all 
the examples of Saracen-Norman architecture we encountered paled, ex- 
cept for Frederick H' s wonderful hun ting castl e, the octagonal Castel del 
Monte. Paestum was another high pomt ofour trip; Pompeii, on the 
other hand, seemed to me further away from the pure forms of Paestum 
than were our buildings from the world of the Dorians. 

On the return journey we stayed in Rome for a few days. The 
Fascist government discovered the real identity of our illustrious traveling 
companion, and Italian Propaganda Minister Alfieri invited us all to the 
opera. But we found it hard to give a plausible explanation for the fact 
that the second lady of the German Reich was traveling abroad without 
her husband and therefore set out for home as quickly as possible. 

While we had been dreaming our way through Greek antiquity, 
Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia and annexed it to the Reich. Back in 
Germany we found a general mood of depression. Apprehensions about 
the future filled all of us. To this day I find it strange that a nation 
can have so right a sense of what is to come, so much so that all the 
massive propaganda by the government does not banish this feeling. 

Nevertheless, it seemed a better sign that Hitler stood up to Goebbels 

one day when, at lunch in the Chancellery, the Propaganda Minister 

attacked former Foreign Minister von Neurath, who a few weeks earlier 

had been appointed Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Goebbels 

said: "Everyone knows von Neurath is a weak sneak. But what is needed 

in the Protectorate is a strong hand to keep order. This man has nothing 

in common with us; he belongs to an entirely different world/' Hitler 

took issue with this. "Von Neurath was the only man for the job. In the 

Anglo-Saxon world he is considered a man of distinction. The international 

effect of his appointment will be reassuring because people will see in it 

my decision not to deprive the Czechs of their racial and national life." 

f Hitler asked me to report on my impressions of Italy. I had been 

f most struck by the fact that the walls of even the villages were painted 

y with militant propaganda slogans. "We dont need that," Hitler com- 


mented. "If it comes to a war, the German people are tough enough. 
This kind of propaganda may be all right for Italy. Whether it does 
any good is another question."* 

Hitler had already asked me several times to deliver the opening 
address at the Munich Architectural Exhibition in his stead. Hitherto 
I had always been able to avoid such duties by a variety of pretexts. 
In February 1938 my evasions resulted in a kind of deal: I agreed to 
design the picture gallery and the stadium for Linz, if I did not have 
to make a speech. 

But now, on the eve of Hitlers fiftieth birthday, a part of the "East- 
West axis" in Berlin was to be opened to traffic, with Hitler present at 
the dedication. That maiden speech could no longer be fended off— 
and to make matters worse in the presence of the Chief of State. At dinner 
Hitler announced: "A great event: Speer is making a speech. I can hardly 
wait to hear what he will say." 

In the middle of the roadway, at the Brandenburg Gate, the digni- 
taries of the city had lined up, with me on the right wing and with 
the crowd massed behind ropes on the distant sidewalks. From the 
distance came cheers, swelling as Hitlers motorcade approached and 
becoming a steady roar. Hitler's car stopped right in front of me; he got 
out and greeted me by shaking hands, while responding to the welcome 
of the dignitaries merely by raising his arm briefly. Portable movie 
cameras began filming the scene from close up, while Hitler expectantly 
took up a position six feet away from me. I took a deep breath, then 
spoke these exact words: "Mein Ftihrer, I herewith report the completion 
of the East-West axis. May the work speak for itself!" There was a 
protracted pause before Hitler replied with a few sentences. Then I was 
invited into his car and drove with him down the five-mile lane of Ber- 
liners who were paying tribute to him on his fiftieth birthday. No doubt 
it had taken an energetic effort by the Propaganda Ministry to bring 
this crowd here; but the applause seemed to me genuine. 

After we had reached the Chancellery and were waiting to be called 
to dinner, Hitler commented good-humoredly: "You put me in a fine fix 
with your two sentences. I was expecting a long speech and meant to use 
the time while you were talking to frame my answer, the way I usually do. 
But since you were finished so quickly, I didn't know what to say. Still 
I must grant you that it was a good speech. One of the best I have ever 

* In his speech to the editors in chief of the German press Hitler described 
what he considered to be the proper method of propaganda for creating war readi- 
ness: "Certain events should be presented in such a light that unconsciously the 
masses will automatically come to the conclusion: If there's no way to redress this 
matter pleasantly then it will have to be done by force; we can't possibly let things 
go on this way." 

149 ) Our Empire Style 

heard." In the following years this anecdote became part of his regular 
repertory, and he told it often. 

At midnight the diners offered Hitler the proper congratulations. 
But when I told him that to celebrate the day I had set up a thirteen-foot 
model of his triumphal arch in one of the salons, he immediately left 
the party and hurried to the room. For a long time he stood contemplating 
with visible emotion the dream of his younger years, realized in this 
model. Overwhelmed, he gave me his hand without a word, and then, 
in a euphoric mood, lectured his birthday guests on the importance of 
this structure for the future history of the Reich. That night he returned 
to look at the model several times. On the way back and forth we would 
pass the former cabinet room where Bismarck had presided over the 
Congress of Berlin in 1878. Here Hitler's birthday presents were heaped 
up on long tables— pretty much a collection of kitsch sent by his Reichs- 
leiters and Gauleiters: white marble nudes, small bronze casts of such 
well-known works as the Roman boy extracting a thorn from his foot, 
and oil paintings whose level matched the stuff exhibited in the House 
of Art. Hitler spoke well of some of the presents, made fun of others, 
but there was in fact not much difference between them. 

Meanwhile matters had progressed between Hanke and Frau Goeb- 
bels to such a point that, to the horror of everyone in the know, they 
wished to marry. An ill-matched couple: Hanke was young and awkward, 
she was considerably older and a polished society woman. Hanke peti- 
tioned Hitler for his approval, but Hitler refused to allow the Goebbelses 
to divorce for raison d'etat! At the beginning of the 1939 Bayreuth Fes- 
tival, Hanke arrived at my house one morning in a state of despair. Magda 
and Joseph Goebbels had had a reconciliation, he reported, and gone 
to Bayreuth together. For my part I thought this was the happiest outcome 
for Hanke, too. But you cannot console a desperate lover with felicitations 
on his escape. I therefore promised him to find out what had happened 
in Bayreuth and left at once. 

The Wagner family had added a spacious wing to Haus Wahnfried, 
where Hitler and his adjutants stayed during the festival, while Hitler s 
guests were put up in private homes in Bayreuth. Incidentally, Hitler 
selected these guests more carefully than he did at Obersalzberg, or even 
at the Chancellery. Aside from the adjutants he invited only a few other 
persons with their wives, those he could be sure would be welcome 
to the Wagner family. Actually, these guests were almost always only 
Dr. Dietrich, Dr. Brandt, and myself. 

On these festival days Hitler seemed more relaxed than usual. He 
obviously felt at ease in the Wagner family and free of the compulsion 
to represent power, which he sometimes thought himself obliged to do 
even with the evening group in the Chancellery. He was gay, paternal 


to the children, friendly and solicitous toward Winifred Wagner. Without 
Hitler's financial aid, the festival could scarcely have been kept going. 
Every year Bormann produced hundreds of thousands of marks from 
his funds in order to make the festival productions the glory of the 
German opera season. As patron of the festival and as the friend of 
the Wagner family, Hitler was no doubt realizing a dream which even 
in his youth he perhaps never quite dared to dream. 

Goebbels and his wife had arrived in Bayreuth on the same day 
as myself and, like Hitler, had moved into the Wahnfried annex. Frau 
Goebbels looked very drawn. She spoke quite candidly with me: "It was 
frightful, the way my husband threatened me. I was just beginning 
to recuperate at Gastein when he turned up at the hotel. For three days 
he argued with me incessantly, until I could no longer stand it. He used 
the children to blackmail me; he threatened to take them away from me. 
What could I do? The reconciliation is only for show. Albert, it's terrible! 
I've had to swear never to meet Karl privately again. I'm so unhappy, 
but I have no choice." 

What could have been more appropriate for this marital tragedy 
than, of all operas, Tristan und Isolde? Hitler, Herr and Frau Goebbels, 
Frau Winifred Wagner, and I heard it sitting in the big central box. 
Frau Goebbels, on my right, cried silently throughout the performance. 
During the intermission she sat, bowed and sobbing uncontrollably, in 
a corner of the salon, while Hitler and Goebbels went to the window 
to show themselves to the audience, both of them strenuously pretending 
to be unaware of the embarrassing episode. 

Next morning I was able to explain to Hitler, who could not under- 
stand Frau Goebbels's conduct, the background of the so-called recon- 
ciliation. As Chief of State he welcomed this turn of events, but in my 
presence he sent for Goebbels at once and in a few dry words informed 
him that it would be better if he left Bayreuth immediately with his wife. 
Without allowing him to reply, or even shaking hands with him, he 
dismissed the Propaganda Minister and then turned to me: "With women 
Goebbels is a cynic." He too was one, though in a different way. 


The Globe 

Whenever he came to see my models of the Berlin buildings, hitler 
would particularly brood over one part of the plan: the future head- 
quarters of the Reich which was meant to manifest for hundreds of years 
to come the power that had been attained in the era of Hitler. Just as the 
Champs Elysees finds its dramatic focus in the residence of the French 
kings, so the grand boulevard was to culminate in a group of buildings 
which Hitler regarded as central to his political activities. These were 
the Chancellery, where the affairs of government were conducted; the 
High Command of the Armed Forces, where the power of command over 
the three branches of the services was concentrated; and a secretariat 
for the party (Bormann), for protocol (Meissner), and for Hitlers per- 
sonal affairs (Bouhler). The Reichstag building also formed part of this 
complex, but this in no way signified that Hitler meant the German par- 
liament to play any important part in the exercise of power. It was mere 
chance that the old Reichstag building happened to be situated there. 
I proposed to Hitler that Paul Wallot's Reichstag, built in Wilhelmine 
Germany, be razed. But here I met unexpected resistance. Hitler liked the 
structure. However, he intended to use it merely for social purposes. 
Hitler was usually taciturn about his ultimate goals. When on this 
and some other occasions he spoke rather candidly to me about the back- 
ground of his building plans, he did so out of that intimacy that almost 
always crops up in the relationship between an architect and his client. 



Tn the old building we can set up reading rooms and lounges for the 
deputies. For all I care the chamber can be turned into a library. With 
its five hundred and eighty seats it's much too small for us. We'll build a 
new one right beside it. Provide a chamber for twelve hundred deputies!" 1 
That assumed a population of one hundred and forty million, and so 
in saying this Hitler was revealing the scale on which he was thinking. 
Partly he had in mind a rapid natural increase of the Germans, partly 
the incorporation into the Reich of other Germanic peoples— but he was 
not including the population of subjugated nations, for these would not 
have any voting rights. I proposed that he simply increase the number 
of voters whom each deputy represented, and thereby make the old 
Reichstag chamber still usable. But Hitler did not want to alter the 
proportion of sixty thousand voters for each deputy which had been 
set by the Weimar Republic. He never explained his reasons; but he was 
as firm on this matter as he was firm about nominal retention of the 
traditional electoral system with its fixed dates for elections, rules of 
franchise, ballot boxes, and secret ballot. On this matter he evidently 
wanted to preserve a tradition which had brought him to power, even 
though his introduction of the one-party system had made the whole 
thing pointless. 

The buildings which were intended to frame the future Adolf Hitler 
Platz lay in the shadow of the great domed hall. But as if Hitler wanted 
by architecture alone to denigrate the whole process of popular repre- 
sentation, the hall had a volume fifty times greater than the proposed 
Reichstag building. He had asked me to work out the designs for this hall 
as early as the summer of 1936. 2 On April 20, 1937, his birthday, I gave 
him the renderings, ground plans, cross sections, and a first model of the 
building. He was delighted and only quarreled with my having signed 
the plans: "Developed on the basis of the Fuehrer's ideas." I was the 
architect, he said, and my contribution to this building must be given 
greater credit than his sketch of the idea dating from 1925. I stuck to 
this formula, however, and Hitler was probably gratified at my refusal 
to claim authorship for this building. Partial models were prepared from 
the plans, and in 1939 a detailed wooden model of the exterior some ten 
feet high and another model of the interior were made. The floor could be 
removed in order to test the future effect at eye level. In the course of his 
many visits to the exhibit Hitler would unfailingly spend a long time con- 
templating these two models. He would point triumphantly to them as an 
idea that must have struck his friends fifteen years ago as a fantastic 
quirk. "In those days who was prepared to believe me when I said that 
this would be built some day!" 

This structure, the greatest assembly hall in the world ever conceived 
up to that time, consisted of one vast hall that could hold between one 
hundred fifty and one hundred eighty thousand persons standing. In spite 

153 ) The Globe 

of Hitler's negative attitude toward Himmler's and Rosenberg's mystical 
notions, the hall was essentially a place of worship. The idea was that over 
the course of centuries, by tradition and venerability, it would acquire an 
importance similar to that St. Peter's in Rome has for Catholic Christen- 
dom. Without some such essentially pseudoreligious background the ex- 
penditure for Hitler's central building would have been pointless and 

The round interior was to have the almost inconceivable diameter 
of eight hundred and twenty-five feet. The huge dome was to begin its 
slightly parabolic curve at a height of three hundred and twenty-three 
feet and rise to a height of seven hundred and twenty-six feet. 

In a sense the Pantheon in Rome had served as our model. The 
Berlin dome was also to contain a round opening for light, but this 
opening alone would be one hundred and fifty-two feet in diameter, 
larger than the entire dome of the Pantheon (142 feet) and of St. Peter's 
(145 feet). The interior would contain sixteen times the volume of 
St. Peter's. 

The interior appointments were to be as simple as possible. Circling 
an area four hundred sixty-two feet in diameter, a three-tier gallery rose 
to a height of one hundred feet. A circle of one hundred rectangular 
marble pillars— still almost on a human scale, for they were only eighty 
feet high— was broken by a recess opposite the entrance. This recess was 
one hundred and sixty-five feet high and ninety-two feet wide, and was 
to be clad at the rear in gold mosaic. In front of it, on a marble pedestal 
forty-six feet in height, perched the hall's single sculptural feature: a 
gilded German eagle with a swastika in its claws. This symbol of sover- 
eignty might be said to be the very fountainhead of Hitler's grand 
boulevard. Beneath this symbol would be the podium for the Leader 
of the nation; from this spot he would deliver his messages to the peoples 
of his future empire. I tried to give this spot suitable emphasis, but here 
the fatal flaw of architecture that has lost all sense of proportion was 
revealed. Under that vast dome Hitler dwindled to an optical zero. 

From the outside the dome would have loomed against the sky like 
some green mountain, for it was to be roofed with patinated plates of 
copper. At its peak we planned a skylight turret one hundred and 
thirty-two feet high, of the lightest possible metal construction. The 
turret would be crowned by an eagle with a swastika. 

Optically, the mass of the dome was to have been set off by a series 
of pillars sixty-six feet high. I thought this effect would bring things 
back to scale— undoubtedly a vain hope. The mountainous dome rested 
upon a granite edifice two hundred and forty-four feet high with sides 
ten hundred and forty feet long. A delicate frieze, four clustered, fluted 
pillars on each of the four corners, and a colonnade along the front 
facing the square were to dramatize the size of the enormous cube. 8 


Two sculptures each fifty feet high would flank the colonnade. Hitler 
had already decided on the subjects of these sculptures when we were 
preparing our first sketches of the building. One would represent Atlas 
bearing the vault of the heavens, the other Tellus supporting the globe 
of the world. The spheres representing sky and earth were to be enamel 
coated with constellations and continents traced in gold. 

The volume of this structure amounted to almost 27.5 million cubic 
yards; 4 the Capitol in Washington would have been contained many times 
in such a mass. These were dimensions of an inflationary sort. 

Yet the hall was by no means an insane project which could in fact 
never be executed. Our plans did not belong to that supergrandiose 
category envisioned by Claude Nicolas Ledoux as the swan song of the 
Bourbon dynasty of France, or by Etienne L. Boullee to glorify the 
Revolution— projects which were never meant to be carried out. Their 
scale, however, was by no means vaster than Hitlers. 5 But we were 
seriously going ahead with our plans. As early as 1939 many old buildings 
in the vicinity of the Reichstag were razed to make room for our Great 
Hall and the other buildings that were to surround the future Adolf Hitler 
Platz. The character of the underlying soil was studied. Detail drawings 
were prepared and models built. Millions of marks were spent on granite 
for the exterior. Nor were the purchases confined to Germany. Despite 
the shortage of foreign exchange, Hitler had orders placed with quarries 
in southern Sweden and Finland. Like all the other edifices on Hitler's 
long grand boulevard, the great hall was also scheduled to be completed 
in eleven years, by 1950. Since the hall would take longer to build than 
all the rest, the ceremonial cornerstone laying was set for 1940. 

Technically, there was no special problem in constructing a dome 
over eight hundred feet in diameter.* The bridge builders of the thirties 
had no difficulty with similar spans of steel or reinforced concrete. Leading 
German engineers had even calculated that it would be possible to build 
a massive vault with such a span. In keeping with my notion of "ruin 
value" I would rather have eschewed the use of steel; but in this case 
Hitler expressed doubts. "You know, an aerial bomb might strike the dome 
and damage the vaulting. If there were danger of collapse, how would 
you go about making repairs?" He was right, and we therefore had a 
steel skeleton constructed, from which the inner shell of the dome would 
be suspended. The walls, however, were to be of solid stone like the 
Nuremberg buildings. Their weight, along with that of the dome, would 
exert tremendous pressure and would demand an unusually strong founda- 
tion. The engineers decided on an enormous concrete footing which would 
have had a content of 3.9 million cubic yards. According to our calcula- 
tions, this would sink only a few centimeters into the sandy soil; but 

A special problem connected with every dome is the acoustics. But to our 
relief prominent acoustical experts calculated that if we observed a few precautions 
there would be no need to worry. 

!55 ) The Globe 

to test this a sample section was built near Berlin. 6 Except for drawings 
and photographs of models, it is the only thing that has remained of 
the projected structure. 

In the course of the planning I had gone to see St. Peters in Rome. 
It was rather dashing for me to realize that its size had little to do with 
the impression it creates. In work on such a scale, I saw, effectiveness is 
no longer proportionate to the size of the building. I began to be afraid 
that our great hall would turn out disappointingly. 

Ministerial Councilor Knipfer, who was in charge of air-raid protec- 
tion in the Reich Air Ministry, had heard rumors about this gigantic 
structure. He had just issued directives providing that all future buildings 
be as widely dispersed as possible in order to diminish the effect of air 
raids. Now, here in the center of the city and of the Reich, a building 
was to be erected which would tower above low clouds and act as 
an ideal navigational guide to enemy bombers. It would be virtually 
a signpost for the government center. I mentioned these considerations 
to Hitler. But he was sanguine. "Goering has assured me," he said, "that 
no enemy plane will enter Germany. We will not let that sort of thing 
stand in the way of our plans." 

Hitler was obsessed with the idea for this domed building. We had 
already drawn up our designs when he heard that the Soviet Union was 
also planning an enormous assembly building in Moscow in honor of 
Lenin. He was deeply irked, feeling himself cheated of the glory of build- 
ing the tallest monumental structure in the world. Along with this was 
an intense chagrin that he could not make Stalin stop by a simple com- 
mand. But he finally consoled himself with the thought that his building 
would remain unique. "What does one skyscraper more or less amount to, 
a little higher or a little lower. The great thing about our building will be 
the dome!" After the war with the Soviet Union had begun, I now and 
then saw evidence that the idea of Moscow's rival building had preyed 
on his mind more than he had been willing to admit. "Now," he once said, 
"this will be the end of their building for good and all." 

The domed hall was to be surrounded on three sides by water which 
would reflect it and enhance its effect. For this purpose we intended 
to widen the Spree into a land of lake. The normal river traffic, however, 
would have to bypass this area through a set of underground canals. 
On its south side, the building would be flanked by the great plaza, 
the future Adolf Hitler Platz. Here the annual May 1 rallies would take 
place; these had previously been held on Tempelhof Field. 7 

The Propaganda Ministry had worked out a pattern for managing 
such mass rallies. In 1939, Karl Hanke told me of the variants of such 
demonstrations; which manner of demonstration was wanted depended 
on political and propagandists factors. From the gathering of school- 
children to cheer a foreign guest all the way to the mobilizing of millions 


of workers to express the will of the people, the Propaganda Ministry 
had a prepared scenario. Ironically, Hanke spoke of "cheering levies." 
Had the future gone according to plan, it would have taken the ultimate 
of all "cheering levies" to fill Adolf Hitler Platz, since it would hold a 
million people. 

One side of the square was to be bounded by the new High Command 
of the Armed Forces, the other by the Chancellery office building. The 
fourth side was open, permitting an enormous vista down the grand boule- 
vard. This would be the only opening in the gigantic square, otherwise 
hemmed in completely by buildings. 

Aside from the great hall, the most important and psychologically 
the most interesting of the buildings was to be Hitler's palace. It is no 
exaggeration to speak of a palace rather than the Chancellor's residence. 
As the preserved sketches show, Hitler had been thinking about this 
building as early as November 1938. 8 The architecture made plain his 
craving for status, which had increased by leaps and bounds since his 
accession to power. From the Chancellors residence of Bismarck's day 
into which he originally moved to this projected palace, the proportions 
had multiplied by a factor of one hundred and fifty. Even Nero's legen- 
dary palace area, the Golden House, with its expanse of more than 
eleven million square feet, would be outstripped by Hitler's palace. Right 
in the center of Berlin, it was to occupy, with the attached grounds, 
twenty-two million square feet. Reception rooms led through several 
series of salons into a dining hall which could have accommodated thou- 
sands. Eight vast entertainment halls were available for gala receptions.* 
The most modern stage equipment was to be provided for a theater of 
four hundred seats, an imitation of the ducal theaters of the baroque and 
rococo eras. 

From his own quarters Hitler could reach the great dome by a 
series of covered galleries. His offices, on the other hand, were conven- 
iently adjacent to the private apartment, and his personal office located 
at the very center of this official sector. Its measurements far exceeded 
the reception room of the President of the United States. 9 Hitler was 
so well pleased with the long hike the diplomats had to take in the 
recently completed new Chancellery that he wanted a similar device 
in the new building. I therefore doubled the distance visitors would have 
to traverse, making it somewhat more than a quarter of a mile. 

From the former Chancellery, built in 1931, Hitler's aspirations had 

* The eight public rooms would have had a total area of 161,400 square feet. 
The theater was to contain four hundred comfortable seats. Following the normal 
practice of allowing about two and a half square feet per seat in a theater, the 3,442 
square feet would have provided easily for eight hundred persons in the orchestra and 
another hundred and fifty in the balcony. Hitler planned to have a special box for 
himself in the theater. 

157 ) The Globe 

by now multiplied seventy-fold. 10 That gives some idea of the proportions 
by which his megalomania had evolved. 

And in the midst of all this splendor Hitler would have set up 
his white enameled bedstead in a bedroom of fairly modest dimensions. 
He once said to me: "I hate all show in a bedroom. I feel most comfortable 
in a simple ordinary bed." 

In 1939, when these plans were assuming tangible form, Goebbels's 
propaganda went on fostering the German people's belief in Hitler's 
modesty and simplicity. In order not to imperil tins image, Hitler said 
scarcely a word about the plans for his palatial private residence and 
the future Chancellery. But once, when we were tramping through the 
snow, he gave me justification for his soaring demands: 

You see, I myself would find a simple little house in Berlin quite suffi- 
cient. I have enough power and prestige; I don't need such luxury to sustain 
me. But believe me, those who come after me will find such ostentation an 
urgent necessity. Many of them will be able to hold on only by such means. 
You would hardly believe what power a small mind acquires over the people 
around him when he is able to show himself in such imposing circumstances. 
Such rooms, with a great historical past, raise even a petty successor to 
historical rank. You see, that is why we must complete this construction in 
my lifetime— so that I shall have lived there and my spirit will have con- 
ferred tradition upon the building. If I live in it only for a few years, that 
will be good enough. 

In his speeches to the construction workers of the Chancellery in 
1938, Hitler had made similar remarks, though of course without revealing 
any of his plans, which by then were already quite far advanced. As 
Leader and Chancellor of the German nation, he had said, he did not 
enter former palaces; that was why he had refused to move into the palace 
of the Reich President, for he was not going to live in a former Lord 
Chamberlain's residence. But in this area, too, he would see to it that 
the German state was provided with a public building that matched the 
prestigious edifices of any foreign king or emperor. 11 

Even at that time, Hitler ruled that we were not to worry about the 
costs of these buildings, and we therefore obediently omitted volume 
calculations. I have drawn them up for the first time only now, after 
a quarter of a century. The result is the following table: 

cubic yards 

1. Domed hall 


2. Residential palace 


3. Office suite and Chancellery 


4. Appendant secretariats 


5. High Command of the Armed Forces 


6. New Reichstag 


33,024,000 cubic yards 


Although the immense scale would have reduced the price per cubic 
yard, the total costs were almost inconceivable. For these vast structures 
would need enormous walls and correspondingly deep foundations. 
Moreover, the exterior walls were to be clad in expensive granite, the 
interior walls in marble. The very best materials were likewise to be 
employed for doors, windows, ceilings, and so on. A cost of five billion 
present-day marks for the buildings of Adolf Hitler Platz alone probably 
represents far too low an estimate. 12 

The shift in the mood of the population, the drooping morale which 
began to be felt throughout Germany in 1939, was evident in the necessity 
to organize cheering crowds where two years earlier Hitler had been 
able to count on spontaneity. What is more, he himself had meanwhile 
moved away from the admiring masses. He tended to be angry and 
impatient more often than in the past when, as still occasionally hap- 
pened, a crowd on Wilhelmsplatz began clamoring for him to appear. 
Two years before he had often stepped out on the "historic balcony." 
Now he sometimes snapped at his adjutants when they came to him with 
the request that he show himself: "Stop bothering me with that!" 

This seemingly small point had a certain bearing on the conception 
of the new Adolf Hitler Platz, for one day he said to me: "You know 
it is not out of the question that I shall some day be forced to take 
unpopular measures. These might possibly lead to riots. We must provide 
for that eventuality. All the buildings on this square must be equipped 
with heavy steel bulletproof shutters over their windows. The doors, too, 
must be of steel, and there should be heavy iron gates for closing off the 
square. It must be possible to defend the center of the Reich like a 

This remark betrayed a nervousness he had not had before. The 
same feeling emerged when we discussed the location of the barracks 
for the bodyguard, which had meanwhile grown into a fully motorized 
regiment armed with the most modern equipment. He shifted its head- 
quarters to the immediate vicinity of the grand southern axis. "Suppose 
there should be some disturbances!" he said. And pointing to the four 
hundred foot wide avenue: "If they come rolling up here in their armored 
vehicles the full width of the street— nobody will be able to put up any 
resistance." I do not know whether the army heard of this arrangement 
and wanted to be on the spot before the SS, or whether Hitler himself 
gave the order— but in any case, at the request of the army command and 
with Hitler's approval a barracks site was prepared even closer to the 
center for the Grossdeutschland guards regiment. 13 

I unwittingly gave expression to this separation of Hitler from his 
people— a Hitler who was ready to have soldiers fire upon the populace 
—in my design for the f a9ade of his palace. There was no opening in it 
except for the great steel entrance gate and a door to a balcony from 

159 ) The Globe 

which Hitler could show himself to the crowd. But this balcony was 
now suspended five stories high above the street. This frowning fa§ade 
still seems to me to communicate an accurate image of the remote 
Leader who had in the meantime moved into realms of self -idolatry. 

During my imprisonment, this design, with its red mosaics, its pillars, 
its bronze lions and gilded silhouettes, had assumed in my memory a 
bright, almost pleasant character. But when I once again saw the color 
photographs of the model, after a lapse of more than twenty-one years, I 
was struck by the resemblance to a Cecil B. De Mille set. Along with its 
fantastic quality I also became aware of the cruel element in this 
architecture. It had been the very expression of a tyranny. 

Before the war, I had laughed at an inkwell which the architect 
Brinckmann (who like Troost had originally designed steamship decor) 
had presented Hitler as a surprise gift. Brinckmann had made a solemn 
construction out of this simple utensil. It was a mass of ornamentation, 
scrolls and steps— and then, alone and forlorn amid all the magnificence 
of this "inkwell for the Chief of State," there was a tiny pool of ink. 
I thought I had never seen anything so abnormal. But contrary to my 
expectations Hitler did not disdain the object. In fact he praised this 
bronze inkwell immoderately. Brinckmann was no less successful with a 
desk chair he had designed for Hitler. It was veritably of Goeringesque 
proportions, a kind of throne with two oversized gilded pine cones 
topping the back. These two items, with their inflated bombast, seemed 
to me to reek of the parvenu. But from about 1937 on Hitler furthered 
this tendency toward pomposity by showing increasing approval of it. 
He had come round again to Vienna's Ringstrasse, where he had once 
begun. Slowly but steadily he moved even further away from the doctrines 
of Troost. 

And I moved with him. For my designs of this period owed less and 
less to what I regarded as "my style." This estrangement from my be- 
ginnings was revealed in other ways besides the wildly excessive size 
of my buildings. For they also no longer had any of the Dorian character 
I had originally tried to achieve. They had become pure "art of deca- 
dence." Wealth, the inexhaustible funds at my disposal, but also Hitler's 
party ideology, had led me along the path to a style which drew its 
inspiration rather from the show palaces of Oriental despots. 

At the beginning of the war, I had formed a theory which I explained 
at a dinner in Maxim's in Paris to a group of German and French artists. 
Cocteau and Despiau were among the latter. The French Revolution, I 
said, had developed a new sense of style which was destined to replace 
the late rococo. Even its simplest furniture was beautifully proportioned. 
This style, I argued, had found its purest expression in the architectural 
designs of Boullee. The Directoire that followed this revolutionary style 
had still treated their more abundant means with lightness and good 


taste. The turning point, I said, had come with the Empire style. From 
year to year new elements were introduced; elaborate ornamentation had 
been lavished upon the still classical basic forms until, at the end, Late 
Empire had achieved a resplendence and wealth that could scarcely be 
surpassed. Late Empire had expressed the end point of a stylistic 
evolution which had begun so promisingly with the Consulate. It had 
also expressed the transition from Revolution to the Napoleonic Empire. 
Within it were revealed signs of decay which were a forecast of the end 
of the Napoleonic era. Compressed within the span of twenty years, I 
said, we could observe a phenomenon that ordinarily took place only 
over centuries: the development from the Doric buildings of early 
antiquity to the fissured baroque facades of Late Hellenism, such as was 
to be seen in, say, Baalbek; or the Romanesque buildings at the beginning 
of the medieval period and the playful Late Gothic at its end. 

Had I been able to think the matter out consistently, I ought to have 
argued further that my designs for Hitler were following the pattern 
of the Late Empire and forecasting the end of the regime; that, there- 
fore, Hitler's downfall could be deduced from these very designs. But 
this was hidden from me at the time. Probably Napoleon s entourage 
saw in the ornate salons of the Late Empire only the expression of 
grandeur. Probably only posterity beholds the symptoms of downfall in 
such creations. Hitler's entourage, at any rate, felt the towering inkwell 
to be a suitable prop for his genius as a statesman, and similarly accepted 
my hulking dome as the symbol of Hitler's power. 

The last buildings we designed in 1939 were in fact pure neo- 
Empire, comparable to the style that prevailed a hundred and twenty- 
five years before, shortly before Napoleon's fall. They were marked by 
excessive ornamentation, a mania for gilding, a passion for pomp, and 
total decadence. And not only the style but the excessive size of these 
buildings plainly revealed Hitler's intention. 

One day in the early summer of 1939, he pointed to the German 
eagle with the swastika in its claws which was to crown the dome nine 
hundred fifty-seven feet in the air. "That has to be changed. Instead of the 
swastika, the eagle is to be perched above the globe. To crown this 
greatest building in the world the eagle must stand above the globe."* 
There are photos of the models in which this revision is plainly to be seen. 

A few months later the Second World War began. 

* As late as May 8, 1943, Goebbels noted in his diary: "The Fuehrer expresses 
his unshakable conviction that the Reich will one day rule all of Europe. We will have 
to survive a great many conflicts, but they will doubtless lead to the most glorious 
triumphs. And from then on the road to world domination is practically spread out 
before us. For whoever rules Europe will be able to seize the leadership of the world." 

The Descent Begins 

About the beginning of august 1939 we, an untroubled group, drove 
with Hitler up to the Eagle's Nest. The long motorcade wound along the 
road which Bormann had blasted into the rock. Through a high bronze 
portal we entered a marble hall, damp from the moisture in the heart of 
the mountain, and stepped into the elevator of polished brass. 

As we rode up the hundred and sixty-five feet of shaft, Hitler said 
abruptly, as if he were talking to himself: "Perhaps something enormously 
important will happen soon. Even if I should have to send Goering. . . . 
But if need be I would even go myself. I am staking everything on this 
card." There was no more beyond this hint. 

Barely three weeks later, on August 21, 1939, we heard that the 
German Foreign Minister was in Moscow for some negotiations. During 
supper a note was handed to Hitler. He scanned it, stared into space 
for a moment, flushed deeply, then banged on the table so hard that 
the glasses rattled, and exclaimed in a voice breaking with excitement: 
"I have them! I have them!" Seconds later he had already regained con- 
trol of himself. No one dared ask any question, and the meal continued. 

After supper Hitler called his entourage together. "We are going 
to conclude a nonaggression pact with Russia. Here, read this. A tele- 
gram from Stalin." It briefly acknowledged the agreement that had been 
reached. To see the names of Hitler and Stalin linked in friendship on a 
piece of paper was the most staggering, the most exciting turn of events 

( 161) 


I could possibly have imagined. Immediately afterward we were shown a 
movie depicting Stalin watching a Red army parade; a tremendous num- 
ber of troops marched past him. Hitler expressed his gratification that 
this military might was now neutralized. He turned to his military 
adjutants, evidently wanting to hear their estimate of the mass display of 
weapons and troops. The ladies were still excluded, but of course they 
soon heard the news from us, and shortly afterward it was announced 
on the radio. 

Goebbels held an evening press conference on August 23 in which he 
offered commentary on the pact. Hitler telephoned him immediately after- 
ward. He wanted to know how the foreign correspondents had reacted. 
With eyes glistening feverishly, he told us what Goebbels had said. "The 
sensation was fantastic. And when the church bells simultaneously began 
ringing outside, a British correspondent fatalistically remarked: 'That is 
the death knell of the British Empire.' " These words made the strongest 
impression upon Hider in his euphoria that night. He thought he now 
stood so high as to be out of the reach of fate. 

In the course of the night we stood on the terrace of the Berghof 
with Hitler and marveled at a rare natural spectacle. Northern lights 1 
of unusual intensity threw red light on the legend-haunted Untersberg 
across the valley, while the sky above shimmered in all the colors of 
the rainbow. The last act of Gotterdammerung could not have been more 
effectively staged. The same red light bathed our faces and our hands. 
The display produced a curiously pensive mood among us. Abruptly 
turning to one of his military adjutants, Hitler said: "Looks like a great 
deal of blood. This time we won t bring it off without violence/' 2 

Weeks before, the center of Hitler's interests had already shifted 
to the military area. In long talks with his four military adjutants- 
Colonel Rudolf Schmundt for the High Command of the Aimed Services 
(OKW); Captain Gerhard Engel for the Army, Captain Nikolaus von 
Below for the air force, and Captain Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer for the 
navy— Hitler tried to arrive at definitive plans. He seemed to especially 
like these young and unbiased officers, all the more since he was always 
seeking approval, which they were more likely to give him than the 
perhaps better informed but skeptical generals. 

During these days immediately after announcement of the German- 
Russian pact, however, he saw less of the adjutants than of the political 
and military heads of the German Reich, among them Goering, Goebbels, 
Keitel, and Ribbentrop. Goebbels above all spoke openly and anxiously 
about the danger of war. Surprisingly, the usually radical Propaganda 
Minister considered the risk excessively large. He tried to recommend 
a peaceful line to Hitler's entourage and was particularly acrid toward 
Ribbentrop, whom he regarded as the chief representative of the war 
party. We who were members of Hitler's personal circle considered him 
as well as Goering, who also counseled peace, weaklings who had de- 

163 ) The Descent Begins 

generated in the luxury of power and did not want to risk the privileges 
they had acquired. 

Even though my future as an architect was also at stake, I thought 
that the solution of national questions must take precedence over per- 
sonal interests. Any doubts I might have had were quelled by the 
self-assurance Hitler showed. In those days he seemed to me like a hero of 
ancient myth who unhesitantly, in full consciousness of his strength, could 
enter upon and masterfully meet the test of the wildest undertakings.* 

Whoever did belong to the actual war party, aside from Hitler and 
Ribbentrop, had worked out arguments more or less as follows: 

Let us assume that because of our rapid rearmament we hold a four 
to one advantage in strength at the present time. Since the occupation of 
Czechoslovakia the other side has been rearming vigorously. They need 
at least one and a half to two years before their production will reach its 
maximum yield. Only after 1940 can they begin to catch up with our rela- 
tively large headstart. If they produce only as much as we do, however, 
our proportional superiority will constantly diminish, for in order to maintain 
it we would have to go on producing four times as much. We are in no 
position to do so. Even if they reach only half of our production, the propor- 
tion will constantly deteriorate. Right now, on the other hand, we have new 
weapons in all fields, the other side obsolete types. 3 

Considerations of this sort probably did not govern Hitler s de- 
cisions, but they undoubtedly influenced his choice of the time to 
strike. For the present, however, he remarked: "I shall stay at Ober- 
salzberg as long as possible, in order to keep myself fresh for the 
difficult days to come. Ill go to Berlin only when decisions become 

Only a few days later Hitler's motorcade was moving along the 
autobahn to Munich. There were ten cars at long distances from one 
another, for security. My wife and I were in one of the cars. It was 
a beautiful, cloudless sunny day at the end of summer. The populace 
remained unusually silent as Hitler drove by. Hardly anyone waved. 
In Berlin, too, it was strikingly quiet in the vicinity of the Chancellery. 
Usually, when Hitler's private standard was raised to indicate his 
presence, the building was besieged by people who cheered him as 
he drove out and in. 

In the nature of things I was excluded from the further course of 
events— all the more so because the normal routine of Hitler's day was 
turned topsy-turvy during this tumultuous spell. After the court moved 

* And, in fact, nine months previously I had had bas-reliefs portraying the 
Hercules legend installed on the new Chancellery. 


to Berlin, an incessant series of conferences fully occupied Hitler's 
time. Our common meals were for the most part canceled. Memory 
can be peculiarly arbitrary, and among my most vivid recollections is 
the somewhat comic picture of Bernardo Attolico, the Italian Ambas- 
sador, rushing breathlessly into the Chancellery a few days before 
the attack upon Poland. He was bringing word that for the present 
Italy could not keep its obligations under the alliance. The Duce 
cloaked this bad news in impossible demands for immediate delivery 
of a vast quantity of military and economic goods. Granting such de- 
mands could have resulted in a disastrous weakening of the German 
armed forces. Hitler had a high regard for the fighting strength of the 
Italian fleet in particular, with its modern units and large number of 
submarines. He was equally convinced of the effectiveness of the big 
Italian air force. For a moment he thought his plans had been ruined, 
for he assumed that Italy's bellicosity would help frighten the Western 
powers. In some dismay, he postponed the assault on Poland, which 
had already been ordered. 

But this temporary retreat soon yielded to new hopes; his instincts 
told him that even with Italy defaulting, the West might still shrink 
from declaring war. He therefore rejected Mussolini's offer to mediate; 
he would hold back no longer, he said, for if the army were held in 
suspense too long it would grow nervous. Besides, the period of good 
autumn weather would soon pass, and during the later rainy season 
there was danger of the troops bogging down in the Polish mud. 

Notes on the Polish question were exchanged with England. Out of 
the rush of events I particularly remember one evening in the con- 
servatory of the Chancellor's residence. I had the impression that 
Hitler looked exhausted from overwork. He spoke with deep convic- 
tion to his intimate circle: "This time the mistake of 1914 will be 
avoided. Everything depends on making the other side accept respon- 
sibility. In 1914 that was handled clumsily. And now again the ideas 
of the Foreign Office are simply useless. The best thing is for me to 
compose the notes myself." As he spoke he held a page of manuscript 
in his hand, probably the draft of a note from the Foreign Office. He 
hastily took his leave, not joining us for dinner, and vanished into the 
upper rooms. Later, in prison, I read that exchange of notes; it did not 
seem to me that Hitler had carried out his intent very well. 

Hitler s view that the West would once more give in to his de- 
mands as it had done at Munich was supported by intelligence informa- 
tion: An officer on the British General Staff was said to have evaluated 
the strength of the Polish army and come to the conclusion that Polish 
resistance would soon collapse. Hitler thus had reason to hope that 
the British General Staff would do everything in its power to advise its 
government against so hopeless a war. When, on September 3, the 
Western powers followed up their ultimatum with declarations of war, 

165 ) The Descent Begins 

Hitler was initially stunned, but quickly reassured himself and us by 
saying that England and France had obviously declared war merely 
as a sham, in order not to lose face before the whole world. In spite 
of the declarations there would be no fighting; he was convinced 
of that, he said. He therefore ordered the Wehrmacht to remain 
strictly on the defensive. He felt that this decision of his showed 
remarkable political acumen. 

During those last days of August Hitler was in an unwonted state 
of nerves and at times completely lost the reassuring air of infallible 
leader. The hectic activities were followed by an uneasy period of 
quiet. For a short time Hitler resumed his customary daily routine. 
Even his interest in architectural plans revived. To his round table he 
explained: "Of course we are in a state of war with England and France, 
but if we on our side avoid all acts of war, the whole business will 
evaporate. As soon as we sink a ship and they have sizable casual- 
ties, the war party over there will gain strength." Even when German 
U-boats lay in a favorable position near the French battleship Dun- 
kerque he refused to authorize an attack. But the British air raid on 
Wilhelmshaven and the sinking of the Athenia soon called for a re- 
consideration of this policy. 

He stuck unswervingly to his opinion that the West was too feeble, 
too worn out, and too decadent to begin the war seriously. Probably it 
was also embarrassing for him to admit to his entourage and above all 
to himself that he had made so crucial a mistake. I still remember his 
consternation when the news came that Churchill was going to enter 
the British War Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. With this ill- 
omened press report in his hand, Goering stepped out of the door 
of Hitlers salon. He dropped into the nearest chair and said wearily: 
"Churchill in the Cabinet. That means that the war is really on. Now we 
shall have war with England." From these and other observations 
I deduced that this initiation of real war was not what Hitler had 

His illusions and wish-dreams were a direct outgrowth of his 
unrealistic mode of working and thinking. Hitler actually knew nothing 
about his enemies and even refused to use the information that was 
available to him. Instead, he trusted his inspirations, no matter how 
inherently contradictory they might be, and these inspirations were 
governed by extreme contempt for and underestimation of the others. 
In keeping with his classic phrase that there were always two possi- 
bilities, he wanted to have the war at this supposedly most favorable 
moment, while at the same time he failed to adequately prepare for it. 
He regarded England, as he once stressed, as "our enemy Number 
One," 4 while at the same time hoping to come to an arrangement with 
that enemy. 

I do not think that in those early days of September, Hitler was 


fully aware that he had irrevocably unleashed a world war. He had 
merely meant to move one step further. To be sure, he was ready to 
accept the risk associated with that step, just as he had been a year 
before during the Czech crisis; but he had prepared himself only for 
the risk, not really for the great war. His naval rearmament was ob- 
viously planned for a later date; the battleships as well as the first 
large aircraft carriers were still under construction. He knew that 
they would not attain full military value until they could face the 
enemy on more or less even terms. Moreover, he had spoken so often 
of the neglect of the submarine arm in the First World War that he 
probably would not have knowingly begun the Second without pre- 
paring a strong fleet of U-boats. 

But all his anxieties seemed to be scattered to the winds in early 
September, when the campaign in Poland yielded such successes for 
the German troops. Hitler seemed to recover his assurance swiftly, and 
later, at the climax of the war, I frequently heard him say that the 
Polish campaign had been a necessary thing. 

Do you think it would have been good fortune for our troops if we had 
taken Poland without a fight, after obtaining Austria and Czechoslovakia 
without fighting? Believe me, not even the best army can stand that sort 
of thing. Victories without loss of blood are demoralizing. Therefore it was 
not only fortunate there was no compromise; at the time we would have 
had to regard it as harmful, and I therefore would have struck in any case. 5 

It may be, nevertheless, that by such remarks he was trying to 
gloss over his diplomatic miscalculations of August 1939. On the other 
hand, toward the end of the war Colonel General Heinrici told me 
about an early speech of Hitler's to the generals which points in the 
same direction. I noted down Heinrici's remarkable story as follows: 
"Hitler said that he was the first man since Charlemagne to hold 
unlimited power in his own hand. He did not hold this power in vain, 
he said, but would know how to use it in a struggle for Germany. If 
the war were not won, that would mean that Germany had not stood 
the test of strength; in that case she would deserve to be and would be 
doomed." 6 

From the start the populace took a far more serious view of the 
situation than did Hitler and his entourage. Because of the general 
nervousness a false air-raid alarm was sounded in Berlin early in Sep- 
tember. Along with many other Berliners I sat in a public shelter. The 
atmosphere was noticeably depressed; the people were full of fear about 
the future. 7 

None of the regiments marched off to war decorated with flowers 

Near Oberammergau, 1925. Albert Speer with his fiancee, Margarete 
Weber, both at the age of nineteen. ( speer-archiv ) 

©aufcitmig (Broker [in. 


If. 4»i •Cl.l.,e,a 1 («. W. «. i'.rlln 1JJ7W 


•Merlin, ben lO.Iiovenber 193 2 

left: Goebbelss letter of 
commendation to Speer for 
completing new party 
office in record time. 


Sohr gechrter Herr Speer 

llach Ferticatellunc unserer neuen Ge3chiifts- 
a telle in iter Vos33trusse apreche ieh Ihnan fiir die von 
Ihnen geleiatete Arbeit meine voile Ancrkennuns and wcirm- 
sten Dunk BlaB. 

V/ir haben e3 ftana beaonders ancenehm ecipf unden, 
dass 5 la trotz der sehr knapp bemessenen Zeit den'umbau 
so rechtzeitic fertica tell ten, daaa wir die 7/ahlarbeit 
bereits in der ncuen Gcachiif tss telle in hngtltt nchmen 
konnten. Ihr rsiboagalossa Zu3a;;.:nenarbeitcn rait .--lien 
IV.rteidicnststeJ len ur.d vor alien iHncen mit den Handwer- 
kern hat una don vVechsol von wiuerer Gcschaf tsstelle 
k a Utt s glUrij'ai* v; e r d e n 1 a a a c r. . 

Guns besonder 
cinfachc, rahlgti Linie ten Inneneinri 
nes Arbeit Haii:..:ncrs , der 
arbeitcr und insbesondcj 

i v.' i rd v o r. in i r die h and w e r ! : 1 i c h 
lor von I l:nen and 
jhtung dea liausco, beaonders raei- 
Arbeitai-ir- nor seiner engercr. :.:it- 
,*o der bciden SitsUngSQUl-tf gewerte 

t;oz. Dr. G o 

below: Goebbels at the 
Sportpalast in Berlin, 1Q32. 
( associated press photo ) 

Hitler greeting crowds from window of the Chancellery, spring 1Q33- 


The new balcony at the Chancellery. 


Hitler and T roost examining model of the 
Hans der Kunst, 1933- 






: & le **mm 

Hitler looking a&Speer's architectural plans at 




' ^Z 



^ N 

k mm*wm 
— \ 

above: Hitler asleep in his 
Mercedes, 1934. 


right: Cheering crowd 
stops Hitlers car, 1935. 


below: Clearing the way 
for Hitlers car, 1935. 



i Hitler welcomed by Bavarian peasants, 1Q35. Behind Hitler an adjutant 

(Martin Bormanns brother Albert). In background, Heinrich Hoffmann, 

I Hitlers photographer, and SS bodyguards, (max ehlert) 

Wooden model of Nuremberg Stadium (400,000 seats), designed by 
Albert Speer. Although the model was completed in iqsG, the stadium 
was never begun. ( heinrich Hoffmann ) 

Hitler in Nuremberg icith SS Ober- 
gruppenfuhrer Jitttner and his trusty 
adjutant, Julius Schaub. 


Trial section of Nuremberg Stadium. Left to 
right: Mayor Liebel of Nuremberg, 
Liebermann, architectural engineer for the 
Stadium, Brugmann, head of the Nuremberg 
building administration, and Albert Speer. 


Speers eagle— over one hundred feet in luingspread, crowning the 
temporary stands at the Zeppelin airfield. "7 spiked it to timber 
framework like a butterfly in a collection!' 












flfi.i IVvrfl 

peers dramatic lighting effect at the, Nuremberg Tarty Rally, I 
creating wliat Sir Neville Henderson called "a cathedral of ice! 


M f 

Hitler sound asleep amid his entourage at the teahouse, 
Obersalzberg. On his right, Eva Braun. (blick -f- bild) 

left: Hitler inspecting the newly 
completed long gallery in the Chancellery 
designed by Speer (January j, iQ39)> First 
roto, left to right: Martin Bormann, Hitler, 
Speer , Theodor M or ell, Heinrich Hoffmann. 
Second row: Albert Bormann, Kramer 
(Hitler s valet), unknown SS adjutant, 
Dr. Haase (surgeon), unknown. 


above : Garden fagade of the Neto 


below: The new Cabinet Room, never 

used by Hitler. 

( bilderdienst suddeutscher verlag ) 

167 ) The Descent Begins 

as they had done at the beginning of the First World War. The streets 
remained empty. There was no crowd on Wilhelmsplatz shouting for 
Hitler. It was in keeping with the desolate mood that Hitler had his 
bags packed into the cars one night to drive east, to the front. Three 
days after the beginning of the attack on Poland he had his adjutant 
summon me to the provisionally blacked-out residence in the Chancellery 
to bid me good-by. I found a man who lost his temper over trivialities. 
The cars drove up, and he tersely took his leave of the "courtiers" who 
were remaining behind. Not a soul on the street took notice of this 
historic event: Hitler driving off to the war he had staged. Obviously 
Goebbels could have provided a cheering crowd of any size, but he 
was apparently not in the mood to do it. 

Even during the mobilization Hitler did not forget his artists. In 
the late summer of 1939, orders were given that their draft records be 
sent to Hitler's adjutant by the various army districts. He then tore up the 
papers and threw them away. By this original device, the men ceased 
to exist for the draft boards. On the list drawn up by Hitler and Goebbels, 
however, architects and sculptors occupied little space. The overwhelm- 
ing majority of those thus exempted were singers and actors. The fact 
that young scientists were also important for the future was not dis- 
covered until 1942, and then with my help. 

While still at Obersalzberg I had telephoned Will Nagel, my former 
superior and now head of my staff, and asked him to begin forming a 
technical assistance group under my leadership. We wanted to put our 
well-coordinated team of construction supervisors to use in rebuilding 
bridges, extending or widening roads, and similar areas of the war effort. 
However, our notions about what we could do immediately were ex- 
tremely vague. For the time being it consisted of no more than getting 
sleeping bags and tents ready, and painting my car field-gray. On the day 
of general mobilization I went to the High Command of the Army on 
Bendlerstrasse. As might be expected in a Prusso-German organization, 
General Fromm, who was responsible for the army mobilization, sat idle 
in his office while the machinery ran according to plan. He readily ac- 
cepted my offer of assistance; my car was given an army number, and I 
myself army identification papers. For the present, that was the extent 
of my wartime activity. 

It was Hitler who tersely forbade me to undertake any missions for 
the army. My duty, he told me, was to continue working at his plans. 
Thereupon I at least placed the workmen and the technical staffs em- 
ployed on my buildings in Berlin at the disposal of the army and industry. 
We took charge of the Peenemunde site for the development of rockets 
and of some urgent buildings for the aircraft industry. 

I informed Hitler of these commitments, which seemed to me the 


least I could do. I was confident of his approval. But to my surprise 
there came an unusually rude letter from Bormann. What was I doing 
choosing new assignments, he demanded. I had received no such orders. 
Hitler had asked him to let me know that all building projects were to 
proceed unchecked. 

This order provides another example of how unrealistically and 
dividedly Hitler thought. On the one hand he repeatedly asserted that 
Germany was now being challenged by fate and had to wage a life-and- 
death struggle; on the other hand he did not want to give up his grandiose 
toys. In making such choices, moreover, he was disregarding the mood of 
the masses, who were inevitably baffled by the construction of such luxury 
buildings, now that Hitler's expansionism was beginning to demand sacri- 
fices. This order of his was the first one I shirked. It was true that I saw 
Hitler far more rarely during this first year of the war. But whenever he 
came to Berlin for a few days, or to Obersalzberg for a few weeks, he still 
asked to be shown the building plans and urged me to go on developing 
them. But I think he soon tacitly accepted the cessation of actual work on 
the buildings. 

Around the beginning of October the German Ambassador in Mos- 
cow, Count von Schulenburg, informed Hitler that Stalin was personally 
interested in our building plans. A series of photographs of our models 
was exhibited in the Kremlin, but on Hitler's instructions our largest 
buildings were kept secret in order, as he said, "not to give Stalin any 
ideas." Schulenburg had proposed that I fly to Moscow to explain the 
plans. "He might keep you there," Hitler commented half jokingly, and 
refused to let me take the trip. A short while afterward, Schnurre, a 
member of the embassy staff, informed me that Stalin had liked my 

On September 29, Ribbentrop returned from his second Moscow con- 
ference with a German-Soviet frontier and friendship treaty which 
was to seal the fourth partition of Poland. At Hitler's table he recounted 
that he had never felt so much at ease as among Stalin's associates: "As 
if I were among old party comrades of ours, mein Fuhrer!" Hitler 
listened without a flicker of expression to this burst of enthusiasm on the 
part of the normally impassive Foreign Minister. Stalin, so Ribbentrop 
declared, seemed satisfied with the border arrangements, and when 
it was all settled drew in his own hand on the map along the border of 
the zone assigned to Russia an area which he presented to Ribbentrop 
as a vast hunting preserve. At this Goering's hackles rose; he insisted 
that Stalin could hardly have meant this gift to apply to the Foreign 
Minister personally. On the contrary, it was a grant to the German Reich 
and consequently to himself as Reich Master of the Hunt. A hot dispute 
broke out between the two passionate hunters which ended with the 
Foreign Minister sulking, for Goering proved more forceful in argument 
and better able to get his way. 

169 ) The Descent Begins 

In spite of the war the renovation of the former palace of the 
Reich President, which was to be the Foreign Minister's new official 
residence, had to proceed. Hitler inspected the nearly completed building 
and showed dissatisfaction. Hastily and recklessly, Ribbentrop thereupon 
ordered the new annex torn down and rebuilt. Probably in order to 
please Hitler he insisted on clumsy marble doorways, huge doors, and 
moldings which were quite unsuitable for rooms of middling size. Before 
the second inspection I begged Hitler to refrain from making negative 
comments, or else the Foreign Minister would order a third rebuilding. 
Hitler actually held his tongue, and only later in his intimate circle did he 
make fun of the building, which to his mind was an utter failure. 

In October, Hanke told me something which had been learned when 
German troops met Soviet troops on the demarcation line in Poland: 
that Soviet equipment appeared extremely deficient, in fact wretched. 
Hanke had reported this to Hitler. Army officers confirmed this point; 
Hitler must have listened to this piece of intelligence with the keenest 
interest, for thereafter he repeatedly cited this report as evidence that 
the Russians were weak and poorly organized. Soon afterward, the 
failure of the Soviet offensive against Finland confirmed him in this view. 

In spite of all the secrecy I obtained some light on Hitler's further 
plans when he gave me the assignment, still in 1939, to fit out a head- 
quarters for him in western Germany. Ziegenberg, a manorial estate of 
Goethe's time, situated near Nauheim in the foothills of the Taunus range, 
was modernized by us for this purpose, and provided with shelters. 

When the arrangements were completed, millions of marks 
squandered on building, telephone cables laid over hundreds of miles, 
and the most modern communications equipment installed, Hitler 
abruptly decided that the place was too luxurious for him. In wartime 
he must lead a simple life, he said, and therefore quarters conceived 
in this spirit were to be built for him in the Eifel hills. This may have 
made an impression upon those who did not know how many millions of 
marks had already been expended and how many more millions would 
now have to be spent. We pointed this out to Hitler, but he would not be 
swayed, for he saw his reputation for "modesty" imperiled. 

After the swift victory in France, I was firmly convinced that Hitler 
had already become one of the great figures in German history. Yet I 
wondered at the apathy I thought I observed in the public despite all 
the grand triumphs. Hitler's self-confidence was obviously growing by 
leaps and bounds. He had found a new theme for his monologues at 
table. His great concept, he declared, had not run afoul of the inade- 
quacies which had caused Germany to lose the First World War. In those 
days there had been dissension between the political and the military 
leadership, he said. The political parties had been given leeway to 
undermine the unity of the nation and even to engage in treasonous 
activities. For reasons of protocol incompetent princes of the ruling 


houses had to be commanders of their armies; they were supposed to 
earn military laurels in order to increase the glory of their dynasties. The 
only reason that enormous disasters had been averted was that these 
incompetent scions of decadent royal families had been assigned excellent 
General Staff officers to aid them. Moreover, at the top as supreme war 
lord had been the incompetent Wilhelm II. Today, on the other hand, 
Germany was united. The states had been reduced to unimportance, the 
army commanders were selected from among the best officers without 
regard to their descent, the privileges of the nobility had been abolished, 
political life and the army as well as the nation as a whole had been 
forged into a unity. Moreover, he, Hitler, stood at the head. His strength, 
his determination, his energy would overcome all future difficulties. 

Hitler claimed total credit for the success of the campaign in the 
West. The plan for it came from him, he said. "I have again and again," 
he told us, "read Colonel de Gaulle's book on methods of modern war- 
fare employing fully motorized units, and I have learned a great deal 
from it." 

Shortly after the end of the campaign in France, I received a tele- 
phone call from the office of the Fuehrer's adjutant: I was to come to head- 
quarters for a few days for a special purpose. Hitler had set up temporary 
headquarters in the small village of Bruly le Peche near Sedan. The 
village had been cleared of all inhabitants. The generals and adjutants 
were established in the small houses that lined the single village street. 
Hitler's own quarters in no way differed from those of the others. At 
my arrival he greeted me in the best of humors. "In a few days we are 
flying to Paris. I'd like you to be with us. Breker and Giessler are coming 
along also." With that I was dismissed for the present, astonished that 
the victor had sent for three artists to accompany him on his entry into 
the French capital. 

That same evening I was invited to dine with Hitler's military circle. 
Details of the trip to Paris were discussed. This was not to be an official 
visit, I learned, but a kind of "art tour" by Hitler. This was the city, 
as he had so often said, which had fascinated him from his earliest 
years, so that he thought he would be able to find his way about the 
streets and important monuments as if he had lived there, solely from 
his endless studies of its plans. 

The armistice was to go into effect at 1:35 AM - on J 11116 2 5> 194°- 
That night we sat with Hitler around a deal table in the simple room 
of a peasant house. Shortly before the agreed time Hitler gave orders 
to turn out the light and open the windows. Silently, we sat in the dark- 
ness, swept by the sense of experiencing a historic moment so close 
to the author of it. Outside, a bugler blew the traditional signal for the 
end of fighting. A thunderstorm must have been brewing in the distance, 

171 ) The Descent Begins 

for as in a bad novel occasional flashes of heat lightning shimmered 
through the dark room. Someone, overcome by emotion, blew his nose. 
Then Hitlers voice sounded, soft and unemphatic: "This responsi- 
bility . . ." And a few minutes later: "Now switch the light on." The 
trivial conversation continued, but for me it remained a rare event. I 
thought I had for once seen Hitler as a human being. 

Next day I set out from headquarters for Rheims, to see the 
cathedral. A ghostly looking city awaited me, almost deserted, ringed 
by military police protecting the champagne cellars. Casement windows 
banged in the wind, newspapers of several days ago blew through the 
streets, open front doors revealed interiors. It was as if ordinary life had 
stood still for a foolish moment. Glasses, dishes, and half-eaten meals 
could be seen on the tables. En route we had encountered innumerable 
refugees along the roads; they used the sides of the roads, for the middle 
was taken up by columns of German army units. These self-assured troops 
between the worn-looking people transporting their worldly goods in 
baby carriages, wheelbarrows, and other primitive vehicles made a 
striking contrast. Three and a half years later I saw similar scenes in 

Three days after the beginning of the armistice we landed at Le 
Bourget airfield. It was early in the morning, about five-thirty. Three large 
Mercedes sedans stood waiting. Hitler as usual sat in the front seat beside 
the chauffeur, Breker and I on the jump seats behind him, while Giessler 
and the adjutants occupied the rear seats. Field-gray uniforms had been 
provided for us artists, so that we might fit into the military framework. 
We drove through the extensive suburbs directly to the Opera, Charles 
Garnier's great neobaroque building. It was Hitler's favorite and the first 
thing he wanted to see. Colonel Speidel, assigned by the German Occupa- 
tion Authority, was waiting at the entrance for us. 

The great stairway, famous for its spaciousness, notorious for its 
excessive ornamentation, the resplendent foyer, the elegant, gilded 
parterre, were carefully inspected. All the lights glowed as they would 
on a gala night. Hitler had undertaken to lead the party. A white-haired 
attendant accompanied our small group through the deserted building. 
Hitler had actually studied the plans of the Paris opera house with great 
care. Near the proscenium box he found a salon missing, remarked on it, 
and turned out to be right. T&e attendant said that this room had been 
eliminated in the course of renovations many years ago. "There, you see 
how well I know my way about," Hitler commented complacently. He 
seemed fascinated by the Opera, went into ecstasies about its beauty, 
his eyes glittering with an excitement that struck me as uncanny. The 
attendant, of course, had immediately recognized the person he was 
guiding through the building. In a businesslike but distinctly aloof man- 
ner, he showed us through the rooms. When we were at last getting ready 


to leave the building, Hitler whispered something to his adjutant, 
Bruckner, who took a fifty-mark note from his wallet and went over to 
the attendant standing some distance away. Pleasantly, but firmly, the 
man refused to take the money. Hitler tried a second time, sending 
Breker over to him; but the man persisted in his refusal. He had only 
been doing his duty, he told Breker. 

Afterward, we drove past the Madeleine, down the Champs Elysees, 
on to the Trocad6ro, and then to the Eiffel Tower, where Hitler ordered 
another stop. From the Arc de Triomphe with its tomb of the Unknown 
Soldier we drove on to the Invalides, where Hitler stood for a long 
time at the tomb of Napoleon. Finally, Hitler inspected th e Pantheon , 
whose proportions greatly impressed him. On the other hand he showed 
no special interest in some of the most beautiful architectural works in 
Paris: the Place des Vosges, the Louvre, the Palace of Justice, and Sainte- 
Chapelle. He became animated again only when he saw the unitary row 
of houses on the Rue de Rivoli. The end of our tour was the romantic, 
insipid imitation of early medieval domed churches, the church of 
Sacre Coeur on Montmartre— a surprising choice, even given Hitler's 
taste. Here he stood for a long time surrounded by several powerful 
men of his escort squad, while many churchgoers recognized him but 
ignored him. After a last look at Paris we drove swiftly back to the 
airport. By nine o'clock in the morning the sightseeing tour was over. 
"It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris. I cannot say 
how happy I am to have that dream fulfilled today." For a moment I 
felt something like pity for him: three hours in Paris, the one and only 
time he was to see it, made him happy when he stood at the height of 
his triumphs. 

In the course of the tour Hitler raised the question of a victory 
parade in Paris. But after discussing the matter with his adjutants and 
Colonel Speidel, he decided against it after all. His official reason for 
calling off the parade was the danger of its being harassed by English air 
raids. But later he said: "I am not in the mood for a victory parade. We 
aren't at the end yet." 

That same evening he received me once more in the small room in 
the peasant house. He was sitting alone at table. Without more ado 
he declared: "Draw up a decree in my name ordering full-scale resump- 
tion of work on the Berlin buildings. . . . Wasn't Paris beautiful? But 
Berlin must be made far more beautiful. In the past I often considered 
whether we would not have to destroy Paris," he continued with great 
calm, as if he were talking about the most natural thing in the world. 
"But when we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow. So 
why should we destroy it?" With that, I was dismissed. 

Although I was accustomed to hearing Hitler make impulsive re- 
marks, I was nevertheless shocked by this cool display of vandalism. He 

173 ) The Descent Begins 

had reacted in a similar fashion to the devastation of Warsaw. At the 
time he had announced that he was not going to allow the city to be 
rebuilt, in order to deprive the Polish people of their political and cul- 
tural center. Warsaw, however, had been devastated by acts of war. 
Now Hitler was showing that he could entertain the thought of wantonly 
and without cause annihilating the city which he himself had called the 
most beautiful in Europe, with all its priceless artistic treasures. Within 
a few days some of the contradictions in Hitlers nature had been re- 
vealed to me, although at the time I certainly did not perceive them in 
anything like their full intensity. He contained a multitude of selves, 
from a person deeply aware of his responsibilities all the way to a ruthless 
and mankind-hating nihilist. 

The effect of this experience however was quickly obscured for me. 
I was once again seduced by Hitler's brilliant victories and by the pros- 
pect of soon resuming work on my building projects. Now it was up to 
me to surpass Paris. Nothing more was said of razing her monuments. 
Instead, Hitler gave orders that our own be erected with maximum 
urgency. As he himself reworded the decree: "Berlin is to be given the 
style commensurate with the grandeur of our victory," and he further 
declared: "I regard the accomplishment of these supremely vital con- 
structive tasks for the Reich as the greatest step in the preservation of 
our victory." He antedated this decree to June 25, 1940, the day of the 
armistice and of his greatest triumph. 

Hitler was pacing back and forth on the gravel path in front of 
his house, accompanied by Generals Jodl and Keitel, when an adjutant 
came to tell him that I wished to take my leave. I was summoned, and 
as I approached the group I heard a snatch of the conversation: "Now 
we have shown what we are capable of," Hitler was saying. "Believe 
me, Keitel, a campaign against Russia would be like a child's game in 
a sandbox by comparison." In radiant good humor, he bade me good- 
by, sent his warmest regards to my wife, and promised that he would 
soon be discussing new plans and models with me. 



Even while hitler was deep in the plans for the Russian campaign, 
his mind was already dwelling on theatrical effects for the victory 
parades of 1950, once the grand boulevard and the great triumphal arch 
had been completed. 1 But while he dreamed of new wars, new victories 
and celebrations, he suffered one of the greatest defeats of his career. 
Three days after a talk with me in which he had outlined more of his 
conceptions of the future, I was called to Obersalzberg with my sketches. 
Waiting in the anteroom at the Berghof, pale and agitated, were Leitgen 
and Pintsch, two of Hess's adjutants. They asked if I would let them see 
Hitler first; they had a personal letter from Hess to transmit to him. At 
this moment Hitler descended from his room upstairs. One of the adju- 
tants was called into the salon. While I began leafing through my 
sketches once more, I suddenly heard an inarticulate, almost animal out- 
cry. Then Hitler roared: "Bormann, at once! Where is Bormann?" Bor- 
mann was told to get in touch with Goering, Ribbentrop, Goebbels, and 
Himmler by the fastest possible means. All private guests were confined 
to the upper floor. Many hours passed before we learned what had hap- 
pened: Hitler's deputy had flown to hostile England. 

Superficially, Hitler soon appeared to have regained his usual com- 
posure. What bothered him was that Churchill might use the incident to 
pretend to Germany's allies that Hitler was extending a peace feeler. 
'Who will believe me when I say that Hess did not fly there in my name, 


175 ) Excess 

that the whole thing is not some sort of intrigue behind the backs of 
my allies?" Japan might even alter her policy because of this, he fretted. 
He put through a phone call to Ernst Udet, the famous First World War 
fighter pilot and now technical chief of the air force, and wanted to know 
whether the two-motored plane Hess was using could reach its goal in 
Scotland and what weather conditions it would encounter. After a brief 
interval Udet called back to say that Hess was bound to fail for naviga- 
tional reasons alone; because of the prevailing side winds he would prob- 
ably fly past England and into empty space. For a moment Hitler regained 
hope: 'If only he would drown in the North Sea! Then he would vanish 
without a trace, and we could work out some harmless explanation at our 
leisure." But after a few hours his anxieties returned, and in order to antici- 
pate the British in any case he decided to announce over the radio that 
Hess had gone mad. The two adjutants, however, were arrested— as the 
harbingers of bad news used to be at the courts of ancient despots. 

A rush of activity began at the Berghof . Aside from Goering, Goeb- 
bels, and Ribbentrop, Ley, various Gauleiters, and other party leaders 
arrived. Ley, as organizational chief of the party, made a bid to take over 
Hess's duties. In organizational terms this was no doubt what should have 
happened. But Bormann now showed for the first time how much influence 
he had over Hitler. He made short work of fending off Ley's proposal, and 
took the post for himself. Churchill commented at the time that this flight 
showed the presence of a worm in the German apple. He could not pos- 
sibly have guessed how literally this phrase applied to Hess's successor. 

Henceforth, Hess was scarcely ever mentioned in Hitler's entourage. 
Bormann alone looked into the affairs of his former superior and showed 
great zeal in visiting the sins of her husband on Frau Hess. Eva Braun 
tried to intercede with Hitler on her behalf, but unsuccessfully; later 
she gave her a small allowance behind Hitler's back. A few weeks later 
I heard from my doctor, Professor Chaoul, that Hess's father was dying. 
I sent him flowers, though without disclosing myself as the sender. 

At the time it appeared to me that Bormann's ambition had driven 
Hess to this desperate act. Hess, also highly ambitious, could plainly see 
himself being excluded from access to and influence over Hitler. Thus, 
for example, Hitler said to me some time in 1940, after a conversation 
with Hess lasting many hours: "When I talk with Goering, it's like a bath 
in steel for me; I feel fresh afterward. The Reich Marshal has a stimu- 
lating way of presenting things. With Hess every conversation becomes 
an unbearably tormenting strain. He always comes to me with unpleasant 
matters and won t leave off." By his flight to England, Hess was probably 
trying, after so many years of being kept in the background, to win pres- 
tige and some success. For he did not have the qualities necessary for 
survival in the midst of a swamp of intrigues and struggles for power. He 
was too sensitive, too receptive, too unstable, and often told all factions 


they were in the right, in the order of their appearance. As a type he 
undoubtedly corresponded to the majority of the high party leaders; like 
him, most of them had great difficulty keeping the ground of reality under 
their feet. 

Hitler put the blame for Hess's flight on the corrupting influence of 
Professor Haushofer.* Twenty-five years later, in Spandau prison, Hess 
assured me in all seriousness that the idea had been inspired in him in a 
dream by supernatural forces. He said he had not at all intended to 
oppose or embarrass Hitler. "We will guarantee England her empire; 
in return she will give us a free hand in Europe." That was the message 
he took to England— without managing to deliver it. It had also been one 
of Hitler s recurrent formulas before and occasionally even during the 

If I judge correctly, Hitler never got over this "disloyalty" on the 
part of his deputy. Some while after the assassination attempt of July 
20, 1944, he mentioned, in the course of one of his fantastic misreadings 
of the real situation, that among his conditions for peace was the extra- 
dition of the "traitor." Hess would have to be hanged, he said. When I 
told Hess about this later, he commented: "He would have made it up 
with me. I'm certain of it. And don't you believe that in 1945, when 
everything was going to smash, he sometimes thought: 'Hess was right 
after all'?" 

Hitler went even further than insisting that the Berlin buildings be 
pushed forward at full speed in the midst of war. Under the influence 
of his Gauleiters he also wildly lengthened the list of cities slated for 
reconstruction. Originally they had been only Berlin, Nuremberg, Mu- 
nich, and Linz. Now, by personal decrees, he declared another twenty- 
seven cities, including Hanover, Augsburg, Bremen, and Weimar, to be 
"reconstruction cities." 2 Neither I nor anyone else was ever asked about 
the feasibility of such decisions. Instead, after each such conference I 
merely received a copy of the decree Hitler had informally issued. Ac- 
cording to my estimate at the time the costs for party buildings alone 
in those reconstruction cities would be, as I wrote to Bormann on 
November 26, 1940, between 22 and 25 billion marks. 

I thought that my own deadlines were being imperiled by these 
requirements. At first I tried to secure a decree from Hitler placing all 
building plans throughout the Reich under my authority. But when this 

* Hess had first introduced Hitler to Professor Karl Haushofer, a former general 
and founder of the theories of "geopolitics." His ideas strongly influenced Hitler's 
early thinking, but Haushofer evidently did not go all the way with Nazism. His son, 
Albrecht Haushofer, was arrested for participation in the July 20, 1944, conspiracy, 
and was shot in the closing days of the war. Professor Haushofer committed suicide 
after his son's death. 

177 ) Excess 

effort was blocked by Bormann, I told Hitler on January 17, 1941— after 
a long illness that had given me time to reflect on many problems— 
that it would be better if I were to concentrate only upon the buildings 
in Nuremberg and Berlin which had been assigned to me. Hitler in- 
stantly agreed: "You're right. It would be a pity if you threw away your 
energies on general matters. If necessary you can declare in my name 
that I, the Fuehrer, do not wish you to become involved in these other 
matters lest you be led away from your proper artistic tasks." 3 

I availed myself generously of this exemption, and during the next 
few days resigned all my party offices. If I can sort out my motives at 
the time, this step was probably also directed against Bormann, who 
had been hostile to me from the start. I knew I was in no danger, how- 
ever, since Hitler had frequently referred to me as irreplaceable. 

Occasionally I was caught amiss, at which times Bormann could 
deliver a sharp reproof to me from headquarters, undoubtedly with 
satisfaction. Thus, for example, I had consulted with the Protestant and 
Catholic authorities on the location of churches in our new section of 
Berlin.* Bormann curtly informed me that churches were not to receive 
building sites. 

Hitler s decree of June 25, 1940, for the "preservation of our victory" 
was tantamount to an order for work to go forward on the buildings in 
Berlin and Nuremberg. A few days later, however, I made it clear to 
Reich Minister Lammers that of course we did not "intend to proceed 
at once with the practical reconstruction of Berlin ... as long as the 
war was going on." But Hitler remonstrated and commanded con- 
tinuance of the building operations even though to do so ran against 
public feeling. Again on his insistence I set up a "Fuehrer s immediate 
program," in the light of which Goering— this was in the middle of 
April 1941— assigned the necessary quantity of iron to me. It amounted 
to eighty-four thousand tons annually. To camouflage the operation from 
the public, the program was given the code name "War program for 
waterways and Reich railways, Berlin section." On April 18, Hitler and 
I again discussed deadlines: for the completion of the great hall, the 
High Command of the Armed Forces, the Chancellery, the Fuehrers 
building— in short, for his power centers around Adolf Hitler Platz. He 
was still determined to have that complex erected as quickly as possi- 
ble. Simultaneously, an association of seven of the best German con- 
struction firms was organized for the purpose of speeding the work. 

With his characteristic obstinacy and in spite of the impending 
campaign against the Soviet Union, Hitler personally continued to take 
a hand in the selection of paintings for the Linz gallery. He sent his 

* As yet we had only agreed to compensate the churches for those of their build- 
ings situated in parts of the inner city which were slated for demolition. 


art dealers into the occupied areas to comb the picture market there, 
with the result that there was soon a bitter contest between his dealers 
and Goering^. The picture war had begun to take a nasty turn when 
Hitler finally reproved his Reich Marshal and thereby once and for all 
restored the order of rank even in regard to art dealers. 

In 1941 large catalogues bound in brown leather arrived at Ober- 
salzberg. They contained photographs of hundreds of paintings which 
Hitler personally distributed among his favorite galleries: Linz, Konigs- 
berg, Breslau, and other eastern cities. At the Nuremberg Trials, I saw 
these volumes again as evidence for the prosecution. The majority of 
the paintings had been seized from Jewish owners by Rosenberg's Paris 

Hitler made no inroads on the famous state art collections of 
France. However, this restraint was not so unselfish as it seemed, for 
he occasionally remarked that in a peace treaty the best pieces from 
the Louvre would have to be delivered to Germany as part of war 
reparations. But Hitler did not utilize his authority for his private ends. 
He did not keep in his own possession a single one of the paintings 
acquired or confiscated in the occupied territories. 

Goering, on the other hand, went about increasing his art collec- 
tion during the war by any means whatsoever. The halls and rooms of 
Karinhall were sheathed with valuable paintings hung one above the 
other in three and four tiers. He even had a life-size nude representing 
Europa mounted above the canopy of his magnificent bed. He himself 
also dabbled in art dealing: The walls of one large hall of his country 
estate were covered with paintings. They had been the personal prop- 
erty of a well-known Dutch art dealer who after the occupation had 
been compelled to turn over his collection to Goering for a ridiculous 
price. In the middle of the war Goering sold these pictures to Gaulei- 
ters, as he told me with a childlike smile, for many times what he had 
paid— adding, moreover, an extra something to the price for the glory 
of the paintings having come "from the famous Goering collection." 

One day— it must have been sometime in 1943— I heard from a 
French intermediary that Goering was pressing the Vichy government 
to exchange a famous painting belonging to the Louvre for several of 
the worthless pictures in his own collection. Knowing Hitler s views 
about the inviolability of the Louvre's collection, I was able to advise 
the French informant not to yield to this pressure; if Goering should 
persist in the matter, he was to let me know. Goering, however, let it 
drop. On the other hand, one day at Karinhall he showed me the Ster- 
zing Altar, which had been presented to him by Mussolini after the 
agreement on South Tyrol in the winter of 1940. Hitler was often outraged 
by the way the "Second Man in the State" appropriated valuable works 
of art, but he never dared call Goering to account. 

Toward the end of the war Goering invited my friend Breker and 

179 ) Excess 

me to afternoon dinner at Karinhall— this was a rare and exceptional 
occasion. The meal was not too lavish, but I was rather taken aback 
when at its end an ordinary brandy was poured for us, while Goering's 
servant poured his, with a certain solemnity, from a dusty old bottle. 
"This is reserved for me alone," he commented without embarrassment 
to his guests and went on about the particular French palace in which 
this rare find had been confiscated. Afterward, in an expansive mood, 
he showed us the treasures stowed away in the Karinhall cellar. Among 
them were some priceless classical pieces from the Naples Museum; 
these had been removed before the evacuation of Naples at the end of 
1943. With the same pride of ownership he had his cupboards opened 
to allow us a glimpse of his hoard of French soaps and perfumes, a 
stock that would have sufficed for years. At the conclusion of this dis- 
play he sent for his collection of diamonds and other precious stones, 
obviously worth hundreds of thousands of marks. 

Hitler's purchases of paintings stopped after he had appointed 
the head of the Dresden Gallery, Dr. Hans Posse, as his agent for 
building the Linz collection. Until then Hitler had chosen his purchases 
himself from the auction catalogues. In the course of this he had oc- 
casionally been victimized by his habit of appointing two or three rivals 
to carry out a particular assignment. There were times when he would 
have separately instructed both his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, 
and one of his art dealers, to bid without limit. The result was that Hitler's 
two emissaries kept fearlessly outbidding one another long after all other 
bidders had dropped out. This went on until one day Hans Lange, the 
Berlin auctioneer, called my attention to this state of affairs. 

Shortly after the appointment of Posse, Hitler showed him his 
previous acquisitions, including the Griitzner collection. The showing 
took place in Hitler's air-raid shelter, where he had stored these treasures 
for safety. Chairs were brought in for Posse, Hitler, and myself, and SS 
orderlies carried in picture after picture. Hitler went on about his 
favorite paintings in his usual way, but Posse refused to be over- 
powered either by Hitler's position or by his engaging amiability. Ob- 
jective and incorruptible, he turned down many of these expensive 
acquistions: "Scarcely useful," or "Not in keeping with the stature of 
the gallery, as I conceive it." As was so often the case when Hitler was 
dealing with a 1 specialist, he accepted the criticisms without demur. 
Posse rejected most of the pictures by painters of Hitler's beloved 
Munich School. 

In the middle of November 1940, Molotov arrived in Berlin. Hitler 
and his dinner guests greatly relished the tale carried by his physician, 
Dr. Karl Brandt, that the Soviet Foreign Minister's staff had all plates 
and silverware boiled before use for fear of German germs. 

In the salon at the Berghof stood a large globe on which, a few 


months later, I found traces of this unsuccessful conference. One of the 
army adjutants pointed out, with a significant look, an ordinary pencil 
line: a line running from north to south along the Urals. Hitler had 
drawn it to indicate the future boundary between his sphere of interest 
and that of the Japanese. On June 21, 1941, the eve of the attack on 
the Soviet Union, Hitler called me into his Berlin salon after dinner, 
had a record put on and a few bars from Liszt's Les Pr&udes played. 
"You'll hear that often in the near future, because it is going to be our 
victory fanfare for the Russian campaign. Funk chose it. How do you 
like it?* . . . We'll be getting our granite and marble from there, in any 
quantities we want." 

Hitler was now openly manifesting his megalomania. What his 
building plans had been implying for years was now to be sealed "in 
blood," as he put it, by a new war. Aristotle once wrote in the Politics: 
"It remains true that the greatest injustices proceed from those who 
pursue excess, not from those who are driven by necessity." 

For Ribbentrop's fiftieth birthday in 1943 several of his close as- 
sociates presented him with a handsome casket, ornamented with semi- 
precious stones, which they intended to fill with photocopies of all the 
treaties and agreements concluded by the Foreign Minister. "We were 
thrown into great embarrassment," Ambassador Hewel, Ribbentrop's 
liaison man, remarked to Hitler at supper, "when we were about to fill 
the casket. There were only a few treaties that we hadn't broken in the 

Hitler's eyes filled with tears of laughter. 

As had happened at the beginning of the war, I was again op- 
pressed by the idea of pushing forward with such vast building opera- 
tions, drawing upon all available means, when the great war was 
obviously reaching a crucial stage. On July 30, 1941— while the German 
advance in Russia was still proceeding boldly— I proposed to Dr. Todt, 
who was in charge of the entire German construction industry, that 
work be suspended on all buildings not essential for the war effort. 4 
Todt, however, thought that in view of the present favorable state of 
military operations we could wait a few weeks more before facing this 
question. The question was to be deferred altogether, for my argu- 
ments once again made no impression on Hitler. He would not hear of 
any restrictions and refused to divert the material and labor for his 
private buildings to war industries any more than he would consider 
calling a halt to his favorite projects, the autobahns, the party buildings, 
and the Berlin projects. 

For each of the previous campaigns Hitler had personally chosen a musical 
fanfare that preceded radio announcements of striking victories. 

181 ) Excess 

In the middle of September 1941, when the advance in Russia was 
already lagging considerably behind the overconfident forecasts, Hitler 
ordered sizable increases in our contracts for granite purchases from 
Sweden, Norway, and Finland for my big Berlin and Nuremberg build- 
ings. Contracts to the value of thirty million Reichsmarks had been 
awarded to the leading companies in the Norwegian, Finnish, Italian, 
Belgian, Swedish, and Dutch stone industry. 5 In order to bring these vast 
quantities of granite to Berlin and Nuremberg, we founded (on June 4, 
1941) a transport fleet of our own and set up our own shipyards in Wismar 
and Berlin, with plans to build a thousand boats with a cargo capacity 
of five hundred tons each. 

My proposals that we cease peacetime building continued to be 
disregarded even when the outlines of the disaster of the winter of 1941 
in Russia began to be apparent. On November 29, 1941, Hitler told me 
bluntly: "The building must begin even while this war is still going on. 
I am not going to let the war keep me from accomplishing my plans." 

After the initial successes in Russia, moreover, Hitler decided that 
we wanted even more martial accents for our boulevard. These were 
to be supplied by captured enemy armaments set up on granite pede- 
stals. On August 20, 1941, on Hitlers orders, I informed an astonished 
Admiral Lorey, commander of the Berlin armory, that we intended to 
place thirty pieces of captured heavy artillery between the south sta- 
tion and the triumphal arch ("Structure T," as we privately called it). 
There were other points, I informed the admiral, on the grand boule- 
vard and along the southern axis where Hitler wanted to place such 
guns, so that we would need about two hundred pieces of the heaviest 
type in toto. Any extra large tanks were to be reserved for setting up in 
front of important public buildings. 

Hitler's ideas about the political constitution of his "Teutonic Em- 
pire of the German Nation" still seemed quite vague, but he had 
already made up his mind about one point: In the immediate vicinity of 
the Norwegian city of Trondheim, which offered a particularly favor- 
able strategic position, the largest German naval base was to arise. 
Along with shipyards and docks a city for a quarter of a million Ger- 
mans would be built and incorporated into the German Reich. Hitler 
had commissioned me to do the planning. On May 1, 1941, I obtained 
from Vice Admiral Fuchs of the High Command of the Navy the 
necessary data on the space required for a large state-owned shipyard. 
On June 21, Grand Admiral Raeder and I went to the Chancellery to 
report to Hitler on the project. Hitler then determined the approximate 
site of the city. As much as a year later, on May 13, 1942, he discussed 
this base in the course of a conference on armaments. 7 Special maps 
were prepared from which he studied the optimum position of the 


docks, and he decided that a large underground submarine base was 
to be blasted into the granite cliff. For the rest, Hitler assumed that St. 
Nazaire and Lorient in France, as well as the British Channel Islands, 
would be incorporated into a future naval base system. Thus he disposed 
at will of territories, interests, and rights belonging to others; by now he 
was totally convinced of his world dominion. 

In this connection I must mention his plan for founding German 
cities in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union. On November 24, 
1941, in the very midst of the winter catastrophe, Gauleiter Meyer, 
deputy of Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for the occupied east- 1 
ern territories, asked me to take over the section on "new cities" and 
plan and build the settlements for the German garrisons and civil 
administrations. I finally refused this offer at the end of January 1942 
on the grounds that a central authority for city planning would inevita- 
bly lead to a uniformity of pattern. I instead suggested that the great 
German cities each stand as sponsor for the construction of the new ones. 8 

Ever since I had begun, at the beginning of the war, to assume 
responsibilty for erecting buildings for the army and air force, I had 
considerably expanded the organization entrusted with this work. To 
be sure, by the standards of a few months hence, the twenty-six 
thousand construction workers employed on these military programs 
by the end of 1941 would be insignificant. But at this time I was proud 
of being able to make a small contribution to the war effort; it eased 
my conscience not to be engaged entirely on Hitlers peacetime plans. 
The most pressing task was the Ju 88 Program for the air force, which 
was to turn out the new two-motored, medium-range Junkers 88 dive 
bombers. Three big factories in Briinn, Graz, and Vienna, each of them 
larger than the Volkswagen plant, were completed within eight months. 
For the first time we used prefabricated concrete elements. From the 
autumn of 1941 on, however, our work was hampered by the shortage 
of fuel. Even though our programs had top priority, in September 1941 
the amounts of fuel assigned to them had to be reduced by a third, and 
by January 1, 1942, to a sixth of our needs. 9 That is just one example of 
how greatly Hitler had overextended his resources by embarking on 
the Russian campaign. 

Along with this, repair of the bomb damage in Berlin and the 
building of air-raid shelters had been turned over to me. Without sus- 
pecting it, I was thus preparing for my duties as Minister of Arma- 
ments. For one thing, this gave me some insight into the havoc wreaked 
on the mechanisms of production by the constant arbitrary shifts in 
programs and priorities. For another thing, it taught me a good deal 
about the power relationships and the dissensions within the leader- 

183 ) Excess 

For example, I took part in a session with Goering in the course of 
which General Thomas expressed his anxieties about the vast demands 
the leadership was making upon the economy. Goering answered the 
respected general by roaring at him: 'What business is that of yours? 
I am handling that— I am, do you hear. Or are you by any chance in charge 
of the Four- Year Plan? You have nothing to say in this matter; the 
Fuehrer has entrusted all these questions to me alone." In such dis- 
putes General Thomas could expect no support from his chief, General 
Keitel, who was only too glad to escape being bullied by Goering. The 
well-conceived economic plan of the Armaments Office of the High 
Command of the Armed Forces was never carried out. But as I had 
already realized by then, Goering did nothing about these problems. 
Whenever he did do anything, he usually created total confusion, since 
he never took the trouble to work through the problems but made his 
decisions on the basis of impulsive inspirations. 

A few months later, around November 1941, in my capacity as 
chief of armaments construction I took part in a conversation between 
Field Marshal Milch and Dr. Todt. In the autumn of 1941, Hitler was 
convinced that the Russians were already defeated; he therefore wanted 
priority to be given to building up the air force in preparation for 
his next operation, the subjugation of England.* Milch now insisted 
on this priority, as was his duty— while Dr. Todt, who knew something 
about the military situation, was close to despair. For he too was re- 
sponsible for increasing the equipment of the army as fast as possible, 
but lacked an order from Hitler which would have given his assign- 
ment the necessary priority. At the end of the conference Todt summed 
up his helplessness: "It would be best, sir, if you'd take me into your 
ministry and let me be your assistant." 

It was again in the fall of 1941 that I visited the Junkers plant in 
Dessau to see General Manager Koppenberg and discuss how to co- 
ordinate our building programs with his production plans. After we 
had worked the matter out, he led me into a locked room and showed 
me a graph comparing American bomber production for the next 
several years with ours. I asked him what our leaders had to say about 
these depressing comparative figures. "That's just it, they won't believe 
it," he said. Whereupon he broke into uncontrollable tears. But Goering, 
the Commander in Chief of the then heavily engaged Luftwaffe, had 
plenty of leisure. On June 23, 1941, the day after the beginning of the 

* This order of Hitler's was still in effect in December 1941, although the situa- 
tion had changed radically. Hitler hesitated to withdraw such orders, partly because 
he had a general tendency to hesitate and partly because he was concerned about 
saving face. A new order consistent with the exigencies of the war, giving army equip- 
ment priority over air force equipment, as required by the circumstances, was not 
issued until January 10, 1942. 


attack on the Soviet Union, he found time to dress in his gala uni- 
form and come with me to see the models of his Reich Marshal's office, 
which were being exhibited in Treptow. 

My last art tour for a quarter of a century took me to Lisbon, 
where on November 8 an exhibit of new German architecture was be- 
ing opened. I was supposed to fly in Hitler s plane; but when it ap- 
peared that some of the alcoholic members of his entourage, such as 
Adjutant Schaub and the photographer Hoffmann, wanted to go along 
on the flight, I shook off their company by proposing to Hitler that I 
drive to Lisbon in my car. I saw ancient cities such as Burgos, Segovia, 
Toledo, and Salamanca; I visited the Escorial, a complex I could com- 
pare only to Hitler s Fuehrer palace in its proportions, although the 
underlying impulse was quite different and far more spiritual: Philip 
II had surrounded the palace nucleus with a monastery. What a con- 
trast with Hitlers architectural ideas: in the one case, remarkable con- 
ciseness and clarity, magnificent interior rooms, their forms perfectly 
controlled; in the other case, pomp and disproportionate ostentation. 
Moreover, this rather melancholic creation by the architect Juan de 
Herrera (1530-97) more closely matched our ominous situation than 
Hitlers boastful program music. In hours of solitary contemplation it 
began to dawn on me for the first time that my recent architectural 
ideals were on the wrong track. 

Because of this trip I missed the visit to Berlin of several Parisian 
acquaintances, among them Vlaminck, Derain, and Despiau, 10 who at 
my invitation had come to see the models of our plans for Berlin. They 
must have looked in dead silence at our project and at the buildings 
that were going up; the office journal does not record a word about 
the impression that our exhibit made on them. I had met them during 
my stays in Paris and through my office had several times helped them 
out with commissions. Curiously enough, they had more freedom than 
their German colleagues. For when I visited the Salon d'Automne in 
Paris during the war, the walls were hung with pictures which would 
have been branded degenerate art in Germany. Hitler, too, had heard 
of this show. His reaction was as surprising as it was logical: "Are we 
to be concerned with the intellectual soundness of the French people? 
Let them degenerate if they want to! All the better for us." 

While I was on my trip to Lisbon, a transportation disaster had 
developed behind the fronts in the eastern theater of war. The Ger- 
man military organization had been unable to cope with the Russian 
winter. Moreover, the Soviet troops in the course of their retreat had 
systematically wiped out all locomotive sheds, watering stations, and 
other technical apparatus of their railroad system. In the intoxication 

185 ) Excess 

of success during the summer and autumn when it seemed that "the 
Russian bear is already finished," no one had given sufficient thought to 
the repair of this equipment. Hitler had refused to understand that 
such technical measures must be taken well ahead of time, in view of 
the Russian winter. 

I heard about these difficulties from high officials of the Reichs- 
bahn (the government railroad system) and from army and air force 
generals. I thereupon proposed to Hitler that thirty thousand of the 
sixty-five thousand German construction workers I was employing be 
assigned under the direction of my engineers, to repair work on the 
railroads. Incredibly, it was two weeks before Hitler could bring him- 
self to authorize this. On December 27, 1941, he at last issued the order. 
Instead of hurling construction crews into the breach at the beginning 
of November, he had gone on with his triumphal buildings, determined 
not to capitulate in any way to reality. 

On that same December 27, I had a meeting with Dr. Todt in his 
modest house on Hintersee near Berchtesgaden. He assigned the entire 
Ukraine to me as my field of activity, while staffs and workmen who 
had all along been frivolously engaged in working on the autobahns 
were made responsible for the central and northern areas of Russia. 
Todt had just returned from a long tour of inspection in the eastern 
theater of war. He had seen stalled hospital trains in which the 
wounded had frozen to death and had witnessed the misery of the 
troops in villages and hamlets cut off by snow and cold. He had been 
struck by the discouragement and despair among the German soldiers. 
Deeply depressed himself, he concluded that we were both physically 
incapable of enduring such hardships and psychologically doomed to 
destruction in Russia. "It is a struggle in which the primitive people 
will prove superior," he continued. "They can endure everything, in- 
cluding the harshness of the climate. We are too sensitive and are 
bound to be defeated. In the end the victory will go to the Russians 
and the Japanese." Hitler too, obviously influenced by Spengler, had 
expressed similar ideas in peacetime when he spoke of the biological 
superiority of the "Siberians and Russians." But when the campaign 
in the east began, he thrust aside his own thesis, for it ran counter to 
his plans. 

Hitler's passion for building, his blind attachment to his personal 
hobbies, stimulated the same sort of thing in his imitative paladins, so 
that most of them had assumed the life style of victors. Even at that 
time I felt that here was one dangerous flaw in Hitler s system. For 
unlike the democratic regimes, there could be no public criticism; no 
demand could arise that these abuses be corrected. On March 19, 1945, 
in my last letter to Hitler, I reminded him of this tendency: "I was 
sore at heart in the victorious days of 1940 when I saw how we were 


losing, among a broad spectrum of our leadership, our inner discipline. 
That was the very time when we ought to have proved our worthiness 
to Providence by decency and inner modesty." 

Though these lines were written five years later, they confirm the 
fact that at the time I saw the mistakes, winced at the abuses, took a 
critical stand, and was tormented by doubts and skepticism. But I must 
admit that these feelings were born from my fear that Hitler and his 
leadership might gamble away the victory. 

In the middle of 1941, Goering inspected our model city on Pariser 
Platz. In a moment of affability he made an unusual remark to me: "I 
have told the Fuehrer," he said, "that I consider you, after him, the 
greatest man Germany possesses." But as second man in the hierarchy 
he felt he had better qualify this statement: "In my eyes you are abso- 
lutely the greatest architect. I would like to say that I esteem you as 
highly for your architectural creativity as I do the Fuehrer for his 
political and military abilities." 11 

After nine years as Hitler's architect I had worked my way up to 
an admired and uncontested position. The next three years were to 
confront me with entirely different tasks which for a time actually made 
me the most important man after Hitler. 



Start in My New Office 


mander of an SS tank corps hard pressed by the Russians near Rostov 
in the southern Ukraine, was flying to Dnepropetrovsk on January 30, 
1942, in a plane of the Fuehrer s air squadron. I asked him to take me 
along. My staff was already in the city, organizing the task of repairing 
the railroads in southern Russia.* The obvious idea of having a plane 
placed at my disposal had not occurred to me— a sign of how small a role 
in the war effort I so far attributed to myself. 

Huddled close together, we sat in a Heinkel bomber refitted as a 
passenger plane. Beneath us the dreary, snow-covered plains of southern 
Russia flowed by. On large farms we saw the burned sheds and barns. 
To keep our direction, we flew along the railroad line. Scarcely a train 
could be seen; the stations were burned out, the roundhouses destroyed. 
Roads were rare, and they too were empty of vehicles. The great stretches 
of land we passed over were frightening in their deathly silence, which 
could be felt even inside the plane. Only gusts of snow broke the mon- 
otony of the landscape— or, rather, emphasized it. This flight brought home 

* According to the Office Journal, beginning on January 28, 1942, a train left 
Berlin every day carrying construction workers and building materials to the Ukraine. 
Several hundred workers had already been sent ahead to Dnepropetrovsk to make 



to me the danger to the armies almost cut off from supplies. At dusk we 
landed in the Russian industrial city of Dnepropetrovsk. 

My group of technicians was called the "Speer Construction Staff" 
—in keeping with the bent of the period to link assignments with the 
names of individuals. They had taken up emergency quarters in a sleep- 
ing car. From time to time a locomotive sent a whiff of steam through the 
heating coils to keep them from freezing. Working conditions were just 
as grim; for our office we had only a dining car. The assignment was 
proving more formidable than we had thought. The Russians had des- 
troyed all the intermediate stations. Nowhere were repair sheds still 
standing, nowhere were water tanks protected from freezing, nowhere 
were there stations or intact switching yards. The simplest matters, which 
at home could have been settled by a telephone call, became a problem 
here. Even lumber and nails were hard to come by. 

It snowed and snowed. Railroad and highway traffic had come to a 
total standstill. The airport runway was drifted over. We were cut off; 
my return had to be postponed. Socializing with our construction work- 
men filled the time; get-togethers were held, songs sung. Sepp Dietrich 
made speeches and was cheered. I stood by; with my awkwardness at 
speechmaking I did not dare say even a few words to my men. Among 
the songs distributed by the army corps were some very melancholy ones, 
expressing the longing for home and the dreariness of the Russian steppes. 
These songs were undisguised statements of inner stress, and significantly 
enough, they were the soldiers' favorite songs. 

Meanwhile the situation was growing critical. A small Russian tank 
group had broken through and was approaching Dnepropetrovsk. We 
held conferences on what we could use to oppose them. Virtually nothing 
was available; a few rifles and an abandoned artillery piece without am- 
munition. The Russians advanced to within about twelve miles, then 
circled around aimlessly in the steppe. One of the mistakes so typical of 
war happened; they did not take advantage of their situation. A brief 
sortie to the long bridge over the Dnieper and destroying it by fire— it 
had been rebuilt in wood in months of toilsome work— would have cut 
off the German army southeast of Rostov from winter supplies for several 
months more. 

I am not at all disposed to be a hero, and since the seven days of my 
stay had been of no use whatsoever and I was only eating into my en- 
gineers' scarce provisions, I decided to go along on a train that was going 
to attempt to break through the snowdrifts to the west. My staff gave me 
a friendly— and it seemed to me thankful— farewell. All night we went 
along at six or seven miles an hour, stopped, shoveled snow, rode again. 
I thought we were a good deal farther to the west at dawn, when the 
train pulled into a deserted station. 

But everything looked oddly familiar to me: burned sheds, clouds 

191 ) Start in My New Office 

of steam above a few dining cars and sleeping cars, patrolling soldiers. 
We were back in Dnepropetrovsk. The huge drifts had forced the train 
to turn back. Depressed, I tramped into my construction staffs dining car, 
where my associates received me with astonished and, I felt, rather irri- 
tated expressions. After all, they had pillaged their stocks of alcohol until 
the early morning hours drinking to their chiefs departure. 

On that same day, February 7, 1942, the plane that had flown Sepp 
Dietrich in was to start on the return flight. Air Captain Nein, who was 
soon to be pilot of my own plane, was willing to take me with him. Just 
getting out to the airfield involved considerable difficulty. Under a clear 
sky and at a temperature barely above zero, a violent wind was whipping 
masses of snow in all directions. Russians in padded jackets tried in vain 
to clear the many feet of snow from the road. After we had tramped along 
for about an hour, several of them surrounded me and addressed me ex- 
citedly. I did not understand a word. Finally one of them picked up some 
snow and began rubbing my face with it. "Frozen," I thought; I knew 
that much from my mountain tours. My astonishment grew when one of 
the Russians took from his filthy clothes a snow-white and neatly folded 
handkerchief to dry my face. 

After some difficulty, around eleven o'clock we managed to take off 
from a runway poorly cleared of drifts. The plane's destination was Ras- 
tenburg in East Prussia, the headquarters of the squadron. My destina- 
tion was Berlin, but it was not my plane and so I was glad that at least 
I would be taken a considerable part of the way. By this chance I for the 
first time came to Hitler's East Prussian headquarters. 

In Rastenburg, I telephoned one of the adjutants in the hope that he 
would report my presence to Hitler and perhaps Hitler would want to 
talk with me. I had not seen him since the beginning of December, and 
it would have been a special distinction if he were at least to give me a 
brief greeting. 

One of the Fuehrer's cars drove me to headquarters. There I at last 
had a good meal in the dining barracks where Hitler ate daily with his 
generals, political associates, and adjutants. Hitler himself was not 
present. Dr. Todt, the Minister of Armaments and Munitions, was report- 
ing to him, and the two were dining alone in Hitler's private apartment. 
Meanwhile, I discussed our difficulties in the Ukraine with Army Trans- 
port Chief General Gercke and the commander of the railroad engineer- 
ing troops. 

After supper with a large group, Hitler and Todt continued their 
conference. It was late at night before Todt emerged, strained and fa- 
tigued, from a long and— it appeared— trying discussion. He wore a de- 
pressed air. I sat with him for a few minutes while he silently drank 
a glass of wine without speaking of the reason for his mood. By chance 
he mentioned, in the course of our rather lame conversation, that he was 


to fly back to Berlin next morning and that there was an unoccupied seat 
in his plane.* He said he would be glad to take me along, and I was 
relieved not to have to make that long trip by rail. We agreed to fly at 
an early hour, and Dr. Todt bade me good night, since he was going to 
try to get a little sleep. 

An adjutant came in and requested me to join Hitler. It was then 
after one o'clock in the morning; in Berlin, too, we had often sat over 
our plans at this hour. Hitler seemed as exhausted and out of sorts as 
Todt. The furniture of his room stressed spareness; he had even re- 
nounced the comfort of an upholstered chair here at headquarters. We 
talked about the Berlin and Nuremberg building projects, and Hitler 
visibly brightened. Even his sallow complexion seemed to take on color. 
Finally he asked me to tell him what impressions I had gathered on my 
visit to southern Russia and helped me along by interjecting questions. 
The difficulties in restoring the railroad equipment, the blizzards, the 
incomprehensible behavior of the Russian tank force, the social evenings 
with their melancholy songs— bit by bit everything I had observed came 
out. When I mentioned the songs his attention sharpened, and he asked 
about the words. I produced the text I had in my pocket. He read it and 
said nothing. My opinion was that the songs were the natural response 
to a grim situation. Hitler, however, decided at once that some traitor 
was trying to undermine morale. He thought my story would enable him 
to track down this "oppositionist." Not until after the war did I learn that 
he had ordered a court-martial of the officer responsible for printing 
the songs. 

This episode was characteristic of his perpetual suspiciousness. He 
closed his mind against the truth, but thought he could draw important 
conclusions from such random observations. Consequently he was always 
querying subordinates, even though they could not possibly have a view 
of the whole. Such distrust, usually without basis, had become a strong 
component in Hitlers character. It caused him to become obsessed with 
trivialities. Undoubtedly it was also to blame for his isolation from the 
events and the mood at the front; for his entourage tried as far as 
possible to fend off any informants who might stir up his suspicions 
that all was not well with the army in the east. 

When I finally left Hitler at three o'clock in the morning, I sent 
word that I would not be flying with Dr. Todt. The plane was to start 
five hours later, I was worn out and wanted only to have a decent sleep. 
In my small bedroom I considered— who in Hitler's entourage did not 
do so after a two-hour conversation with him?— what impression I had 
probably left with him. I was content, my confidence restored that we 
would be able to carry out our building projects, a matter I had begun 

* Todt was flying to Munich and expected to make a stopover in Berlin. 

193 ) Start in My New Office 

to doubt in view of the military situation. That night our dreams were 
transformed into realities; we had once again worked ourselves up to 
a hallucinatory optimism. 

Next morning, the shrill clang of the telephone startled me out of 
a deep sleep. Dr. Brandt reported excitedly: "Dr. Todt's plane has just 
crashed, and he has been killed. ,, 

From that moment on my whole world was changed. 

My relationship to Dr. Todt had become perceptibly closer in re- 
cent years. With his death I felt that I had lost an older, prudent col- 
league. We had much in common. Both of us came from prosperous, 
upper-middle-class circumstances; both of us were Badeners and had 
technological backgrounds. We loved nature, life in alpine shelters, ski 
tours— and shared a strong dislike for Bormann. Todt had repeatedly 
had serious run-ins with Bormann, protesting against his despoiling the 
landscape around Obersalzberg. My wife and I had frequently been 
Todt's house guests; the Todts lived in a small unpretentious place off 
the beaten track on Hintersee near Berchtesgaden. No one would have 
guessed that the famous road builder and creator of the autobahns lived 

Dr. Todt was one of the very few modest, unassertive personalities 
in the government, a man you could rely on, and who steered clear of 
all the intrigues. With his combination of sensitivity and matter-of- 
factness, such as is frequently found in technicians, he fitted rather 
poorly into the governing class of the National Socialist state. He lived 
a quiet, withdrawn life, having no personal contacts with party circles 
—and even very rarely appeared at Hitler's dinners and suppers, although 
he would have been welcome. This retiring attitude enhanced his pres- 
tige; whenever he did appear he became the center of interest. Hitler, 
too, paid him and his accomplishments a respect bordering on reverence. 
Nevertheless, Todt had maintained his personal independence in his 
relations with Hitler, although he was a loyal party member of the early 

In January 1941, when I was having difficulties with Bormann and 
Giessler, Todt wrote me an unusually candid letter which revealed his 
own resigned approach to the working methods of the National Socialist 

Perhaps my own experiences and bitter disappointments with all the 
men with whom I should actually be cooperating might be of help to you, 
enabling you to regard your experience as conditioned by the times, and 
perhaps the point of view which I have gradually arrived at after much 
struggle might somewhat help you psychologically. For I have concluded 
that in the course of such events . . . every activity meets with opposition, 


everyone who acts has his rivals and unfortunately his opponents also. But 
not because people want to be opponents, rather because the tasks and rela- 
tionships force different people to take different points of view. Perhaps, 
being young, you have quickly discovered how to cut through all such bother, 
while I only brood over it. 1 

At the breakfast table in the Fuehrer s headquarters there was lively 
discussion of whp could possibly be considered for Dr. Todt's successor. 
Everyone agreed that he was irreplaceable. For he had held the posi- 
tions of three ministers. Thus, he had been the supreme head of all road- 
building operations, in charge of all navigable waterways and improve- 
ments on them, as well as of all power plants. In addition, as Hitler s 
direct envoy, he was Minister of Armaments and Munitions. Within the 
framework of Goering's Four- Year Plan he headed the construction in- 
dustry and had also created the Todt Organization which was building 
the West Wall and the U-boat shelters along the Atlantic, as well as the 
roads in the occupied territories all the way from northern Norway to 
southern France. Now he was also responsible for road building in 

Thus in the course of the past several years Todt had gathered the 
major technical tasks of the Reich into his own hands. For the time being 
his operations were still nominally divided into various offices, but in 
essence he had set up the future technical ministry— all the more so 
since he was entrusted, within the party organization, with the Head 
Office for Technology, whose scope included all technical societies and 

During these first few hours I had already realized that an important 
portion of Todt's widely ranging tasks would surely fall to me. For 
as early as the spring of 1939, on one of his inspection tours of the West 
Wall, Hitler had remarked that if anything should happen to Todt, I 
would be the man to carry out his construction assignments. Later, in the 
summer of 1940, Hitler received me officially in the Chancellery office 
to inform me that Todt was overburdened. He had therefore decided, 
he said, to put me in charge of all construction, including the fortifica- 
tions along the Atlantic. At the time I had been able to convince Hitler 
that it would be better if construction and armaments remained in one 
hand, since they were closely linked. Hitler had not referred to the 
matter again, and I had not spoken to anyone about it. The arrangement 
would not only have offended Todt but would surely have diminished 
his prestige. 2 

I was therefore prepared for some such assignment when I was 
summoned to Hitler as the first caller of the day at the usual late hour, 
around one o'clock in the afternoon. Even the face of Chief Adjutant 
Schaub expressed the importance of the occasion. In contrast to the 

195 ) Star t in M y New Office 

night before, Hitler received me officially as Fuehrer of the Reich. 
Standing, earnest and formal, he received my condolences, replied very 
briefly, then said without more ado: "Herr Speer, I appoint you the 
successor to Minister Todt in all his capacities." 

I was thunderstruck. He was already shaking hands with me and on 
the point of dismissing me. But I thought he had expressed himself im- 
precisely and therefore replied that I would try my best to be an adequate 
replacement for Dr. Todt in his construction assignments. "No, in all his 
capacities, including that of Minister of Armaments," Hitler corrected me. 

"But I don't know anything about ..." I protested. 

"I have confidence in you. I know you will manage it," Hitler cut 
me off. "Besides, I have no one else. Get in touch with the Ministry at 
once and take over!" 

"Then, mein Fiihrer, you must put that as a command, for I cannot 
vouch for my ability to master this assignment." 

Tersely, Hitler issued the command. I received it in silence. 

Without a personal word, such as had been the usual thing between 
us, Hitler turned to other business. I took my leave, having experienced 
a first sample of our new relationship. Hitherto, Hitler had displayed 
a kind of fellowship toward me as an architect. Now a new phase was 
perceptibly beginning. From the first moment on he was establishing 
the aloofness of an official relationship to a minister who was his 

As I turned to the door, Schaub entered. "The Reich Marshal is 
here and urgently wishes to speak to you, mein Fiihrer. He has no 

Hitler looked sulky and displeased. "Send him in." He turned to 
me. "Stay here a moment longer." 

Goering bustled in and after a few words of condolence stated his 
mind: "Best if I take over Dr. Todt's assignments within the framework 
of the Four- Year Plan. This would avoid the frictions and difficulties we 
had in the past as a result of overlapping responsibilities." 

Goering had presumably come in his special train from his hunting 
lodge in Rominten, about sixty miles from Hitler's headquarters. Since 
the accident had taken place at half past nine he must have wasted no 
time at all. 

Hitler ignored Goering's proposal. "I have already appointed Todt's 
successor. Reich Minister Speer here has assumed all of Dr. Todt's 
offices as of this moment." 

The statement was so unequivocal that it excluded all possible 
argument. Goering seemed stunned and alarmed. But within a few 
seconds he recovered his composure. Coldly and ill-humoredly, he made 
no comment on Hitler's announcement. Instead he said: "I hope you 
will understand, mein Fiihrer, if I do not attend Dr. Todt's funeral. You 


know what battles I had with him. It would hardly do for me to be 

I no longer remember precisely what Hitler replied, since all this 
washing of dirty linen was naturally somewhat of a shock to me at this 
early moment in my new ministerial career. But I recall that Goering 
finally consented to come to the funeral, so that his disagreements with 
Todt would not become public knowledge. Given the importance assigned 
to such ceremonies by the system, it would have caused quite a stir if 
the second man in the state was absent from a formal act of state in 
honor of a dead cabinet minister. 

There could be no doubt that Goering had tried to win his point 
by a surprise assault. I even surmised that Hitler had expected such a 
maneuver, and that this was the reason for the speed of my appointment. 

As Minister of Armaments, Dr. Todt could carry out his assignment 
from Hitler only by issuing direct orders to industry. Goering, on the 
other hand, as Commissioner of the Four- Year Plan, felt responsible 
for running the entire war economy. He and his apparatus were therefore 
pitted against Todt's activities. In the middle of January 1942, about 
two weeks before his death, Todt had taken part in a conference on pro- 
duction matters. In the course of it Goering had so berated him that 
Todt informed Funk on the same afternoon that he would have to quit. 
On such occasions it worked to Todt's disadvantage that he wore the 
uniform of a brigadier general of the air force. This meant that in spite 
of his ministerial office he ranked as Goering's subordinate in the 
military hierarchy. 

After this little episode one thing was clear to me: Goering would 
not be my ally, but Hitler seemed prepared to back me if I should 
encounter difficulties with the Reich Marshal. 

At first Hitler seemed to treat Todt's death with the stoic calm 
of a man who must reckon with such incidents as part of the general 
picture. Without citing any evidence, he expressed the suspicion, during 
the first few days, that foul play might have been involved and that 
he was going to have the secret service look into the matter. This view, 
however, soon gave way to an irritable and often distinctly nervous 
reaction whenever the subject was mentioned in his presence. In such 
cases Hitler might declare sharply: "I want to hear no more about that. 
I forbid further discussion of the subject." Sometimes he would add: 
"You know that this loss still affects me too deeply for me to want to 
talk about it." 

On Hitlers orders the Reich Air Ministry tried to determine 
whether sabotage might have been responsible for the plane crash. 
The investigation established the fact that the plane had exploded, with 
a sharp flame darting straight upward, some sixty-five feet above the 
ground. The report of the commission, which because of its importance 

197 ) Star* in My New Office 

was headed by an air force lieutenant general, nevertheless concluded 
with the curious statement: "The possibility of sabotage is ruled out 
Further measures are therefore neither requisite nor intended."* Inci- 
dentally, not long before his death Dr. Todt had deposited a sizable 
sum of money in a safe, earmarked for his personal secretary of many 
years service. He had remarked that he was doing this in case something 
should happen to him. 

One can only wonder at the recklessness and the frivolity with 
which Hitler appointed me to one of those three or four ministries on 
which the existence of his state depended. I was a complete outsider to 
the army, to the party, and to industry. Never in my life had I had 
anything to do with military weapons, for I had never been a soldier 
and up to the time of my appointment had never even used a rifle as a 
hunter. To be sure, it was in keeping with Hitler's dilettantism that 
he preferred to choose nonspecialists as his associates. After all, he had 
already appointed a wine salesman as his Foreign Minister, his party 
philosopher as his Minister for Eastern Affairs, and an erstwhile fighter 
pilot as overseer of the entire economy. Now he was picking an architect 
of all people to be his Minister of Armaments. Undoubtedly Hitler pre- 
ferred to fill positions of leadership with laymen. All his life he re- 
spected but distrusted professionals such as, for example, Schacht. 

As after the death of Professor Troost, my career was again being 
furthered by the death of another man. Hitler regarded it as a specially 
striking instance of Providence that I had arrived at headquarters the 
night before by sheer chance, and that I had canceled my projected flight 
with Todt. Later, when I was having my first successes, he liked to say 

* The plane executed a normal takeoff, but while still within sight of the airport 
the pilot made a rapid turn which suggested that he was trying for an emergency 
landing. As he was coming down he steered for the landing strip without taking time 
to head into the wind. The accident occurred near the airport and at a low altitude. 
The plane was a Heinkel III, converted for passenger flight; it had been lent to Dr. 
Todt by his friend Field Marshal Sperrle, since Todt's own plane was undergoing 
repairs. Hitler reasoned that this Heinkel, like all the courier planes that were used 
at the front, had a self-destruct mechanism on board. It could be activated by pulling 
a handle located between the pilot's and the copilot's seats, whereupon the plane 
would explode within a few minutes. The final report of the military tribunal, dated 
March 8, 1943 (K 1 T.L. II/42) and signed by the commanding general and the 
commander of Air District I, Konigsberg, stated: "Approximately twenty-three hun- 
dred feet from the airport and the end of the runway the pilot apparently throttled 
down, then opened the throttle again two or three seconds later. At that moment a 
long flame shot up vertically from the front of the plane, apparently caused by an 
explosion. The aircraft fell at once from an altitude of approximately sixty-five feet, 
pivoting around its right wing and hitting the ground almost perpendicularly, facing 
directly away from its flight direction. It caught fire at once and a series of explosions 
totally demolished it." 


that the plane crash had been engineered by fate in order to bring about 
an increase in armaments production. 

In contrast to the troublesome Dr. Todt, Hitler must have found 
me a rather willing tool at first. To that extent, this shift in personnel 
obeyed the principle of negative selection which governed the composition 
of Hitler s entourage. Since he regularly responded to opposition by 
choosing someone more amenable, over the years he assembled around 
himself a group of associates who more and more surrendered to his argu- 
ments and translated them into action more and more unscrupulously. 

Nowadays, historians are apt to inquire into my activities as Arma- 
ments Minister and inclined to treat my building plans for Berlin and 
Nuremberg as of secondary importance. For me, however, my work as 
architect still remained my life task. I regarded my surprising appointment 
as an interim thing for the "duration," a form of wartime service. I saw 
the possibility of winning a reputation, and even fame, as Hitler s 
architect, whereas whatever even a prominent minister could accomplish 
would necessarily be absorbed in Hitler's glory. I therefore very soon 
extracted the promise from Hitler that he appoint me his architect again 
after the war. 3 The fact that I thought this necessary shows how de- 
pendent we all felt on Hitler s will, even in his most personal decisions. 
Hitler met my request without hesitation. He too thought that I would 
perform my most valuable services for him and his Reich as his foremost 
architect. When on occasion he spoke of his plans for the future, he 
frequently declared longingly: "Then both of us will withdraw from 
affairs for several months to go through all the building plans once 
more." But soon such remarks became rarer and rarer. 

The first result of my appointment as a minister was the arrival 
by plane at the Fuehrer s headquarters of Oberregierungsrat Konrad 
Haasemann, Todt's personal assistant. There were more influential and 
more important associates of Todt. I was therefore vexed and interpreted 
the dispatch of Haasemann as an attempt to test my authority. Haase- 
mann claimed that he had come to brief me on the qualities of my future 
associates. I told him sharply that I intended to form my own view. That 
same evening I took the night train to Berlin. For the time being I had 
lost any fondness I may have had for plane travel. 

Next morning as I rode through the suburbs of the capital with 
their factories and railroad yards, I was overcome by anxiety. How 
would I be able to contend with this vast and alien field, I wondered. 
I had considerable doubts about my qualifications for this new task, 
for coping with either the practical difficulties or the personal demands 
that were made upon a minister. As the train pulled into the Schlesischer 
Station, I f ound my heart pounding and felt weak. 

Here I was about to occupy a key position in the wartime organiza- 

199 ) Start in My New Office 

tion, although I was rather shy in dealing with strangers, lacked the gift 
of speaking up easily at public meetings, and even in conferences found 
it hard to express my thoughts precisely and understandably. What would 
the generals of the army say when I, already marked as a nonsoldier 
and artist, was presented to them as their colleague? Actually, such ques- 
tions of personal impression and of the extent of my authority worried 
me as much as the practical tasks. 

A rather considerable problem awaited me in dealing with the 
administrative aspect of my new job. I was aware that Todt's old 
associates would regard me as an intruder. They knew me, of course, 
as a friend of their chief, but they also knew me as someone always 
petitioning them for supplies of building materials. And these men had 
been in close collaboration with Dr. Todt for many years. 

Immediately after my arrival I paid a visit to all the important 
department heads in their offices, thus sparing them the necessity of 
coming to me to report. I also gave the order that nothing was to be 
changed in Dr. Todt's private office, although its furnishings did not 
suit my taste.* 

On the morning of February 11, 1942, I had to be present at 
Anhalter Station to receive the coffin with Todt's remains. This 
ceremony was hard on my nerves, as was the funeral on the next day 
in my mosaic hall in the Chancellery— in the presence of a Hitler moved 
to tears. During the simple ceremony at the grave Xaver Dorsch, one 
of Todt's key men, solemnly assured me of his loyalty. Two years later, 
when I fell seriously ill, he entered into an intrigue against me led by 

My work began immediately. Field Marshal Erhard Milch, state 
secretary of the Air Ministry, invited me to a conference in the great 
hall of the Ministry, to be held on Friday, February 13, at which 
armament questions were to be discussed with the three branches of the 
services and with representatives of industry. When I asked whether 
this conference could not be postponed, since I first had to get the 
feel of my job, Milch replied with a counterquestion typical of his 
free and easy manner and the good relations between us: The top 
industrialists from all over the Reich were already on their way to the 
conference, and was I going to beg off? I agreed to come. 

On the day before, I was summoned to Goering. This was my first 

Not until the summer of 1943, when I moved, was I able to get rid of these 
ugly furnishings unobtrusively and replace them with furniture I had designed for 
my old study. In the process I also succeeded in parting company with a picture 
that had previously hung over my desk. It showed Hitler, who was hopeless on horse- 
back, staring sternly from the saddle and decked out as a medieval knight with a 
lance. . . . Sensitive technicians do not always show the best taste in their interior 


visit to him in my new capacity of minister. Cordially, he spoke of the 
harmony between us while I was his architect. He hoped this would 
not change, he said. When Goering wanted to, he could display a good 
deal of charm, hard to resist if somewhat condescending. But then he 
came down to business. He had had a written agreement with my 
predecessor, he said. A similar document had been prepared for me; he 
would send it to me for my signature. The agreement stipulated that in 
my procurement for the army I could not infringe on areas covered by 
the Four- Year Plan. He concluded our discussion by saying rather 
obscurely that I would learn more in the course of the conference with 
Milch and the others. I did not reply and ended the discussion on the 
same note of cordiality. Since the Four- Year Plan embraced the entire 
economy, I would have had my hands completely tied if I abided by 
Goering's arrangement. 

I sensed that something unusual was awaiting me at Milch's 
conference. Since I still felt by no means secure and since Hitler was 
still in Berlin, I informed him of my anxieties. I knew, from the little 
episode with Goering at the time of my appointment, that I could 
count on his backing. "Very well," he said. "If any steps are taken 
against you, or if you have difficulties, interrupt the conference and 
invite the participants to the Cabinet Room. Then 111 tell those 
gentlemen whatever is necessary ." 

The Cabinet Room was regarded as a "sacred place"; to be received 
there would inevitably make a deep impression. And the fact that Hitler 
would be willing to address this group, with whom I would be dealing 
in the future, offered me the best possible prospects for my start. 

The large conference hall of the Air Ministry was filled. There 
were thirty persons present: the most important men in industry, 
among them General Manager Albert Vogler; Wilhelm Zangen, head of 
the German Industry Association; General Ernst Fromm, chief of the 
Reserve Army, with his subordinate, Lieutenant General Leeb, chief of 
the army Ordnance Office; Admiral Witzell, armaments chief of the 
navy; General Thomas, chief of the War Economy and Armaments 
Office of the OKW; Walther Funk, Reich Minister of Economics; various 
officials of the Four-Year Plan; and a few more of Goering's important 
associates. Milch took the chair as representative of the conference host. 
He asked Funk to sit at his right and me at his left. In a terse introductory 
address he explained the difficulties that had arisen in armaments 
production due to the conflicting demands of the three services. Vogler 
of the United Steel Works followed with some highly intelligent ex- 
planations of how orders and counterorders, disputes over priority levels, 
and constant shifting of priorities interfered with industrial production. 
There were still unused reserves available, he said, but because of the 
tugging and hauling these did not come to light. Thus it was high 

201 ) Start in My New Office 

time to establish clear relationships. There must be one man able to 
make all decisions. Industry did not care who it was. 

Thereafter, General Fromm spoke for the army and Admiral Witzell 
for the navy. In spite of some reservations they expressed general 
agreement with Vogler s remarks. The other participants likewise were 
convinced of the necessity for having one person to assume authority 
in economic matters. During my own work for the air force I too had 
recognized the urgency of this matter. 

Finally Economics Minister Funk stood up and turned directly 
to Milch. We were all in essential agreement, he said; the course of the 
meeting had revealed that. The only remaining question, therefore, was 
who the man should be. "Who would be better suited for the purpose than 
you, my dear Milch, since you have the confidence of Goering, our 
revered Reich Marshal? I therefore believe I am speaking in the name 
of all when I ask you to take over this office!" he exclaimed, striking a 
rather overemotional note for the occasion. 

This had clearly been prearranged. Even while Funk was speaking, 
I whispered into Milch's ear: "The conference is to be continued in 
the Cabinet Room. The Fuehrer wants to speak about my tasks." Milch, 
quick-wittedly grasping the meaning of this, replied to Funk's proposal 
that he was greatly honored by such an expression of confidence, but 
that he could not accept. 4 

I spoke up for the first time, transmitting to the assembled group the 
Fuehrers invitation and announcing that the discussion would be con- 
tinued on Thursday, February 18, in my ministry, since it would probably 
deal with my assignment. Milch then adjourned the session. 

Later Funk admitted to me that on the eve of the conference Billy 
Korner, Goering's state secretary and associate in the work of the 
Four- Year Plan, had urged him to propose Milch as the authority for 
final decisions. Funk took it for granted that Korner could not have made 
this request without Goering's knowledge. 

Hitler s invitation alone must have made it clear to those familiar 
with the balance of power that I was starting from a stronger position 
than my predecessor had ever possessed. 

Now Hitler had to make good on his promise. In his office he let 
me brief him on what had taken place and jotted down some notes. He 
then went into the Cabinet Room with me and immediately took the 

Hitler spoke for about an hour. Rather tediously, he expatiated on 
the tasks of war industry, emphasized the need for accelerated produc- 
tion, spoke of the valuable forces that must be mobilized in industry, 
and was astonishingly candid on the subject of Goering: "This man can- 
not look after armaments within the framework of the Four- Year Plan." 


It was essential, Hitler continued, to separate this task from the Four- 
Year Plan and turn it over to me. A function was given to a man and 
then taken from him again; such things happened. The capacity for in- 
creased production was available, but things had been mismanaged. 

(In prison Funk told me that Goering had asked for this statement 
of Hitlers— which amounted to stripping him of some of his powers— in 
writing so that he could use it as evidence against his use of forced 

Hitler avoided touching on the problem of a single head for all 
armaments production. Similarly, he spoke only of supplies for the 
army and navy, deliberately excluding the air force. I too had glossed 
over this contested point in my words with him, since the matter involved 
a political decision and would have brought in all sorts of ambiguities. 
Hitler concluded his address with an appeal to the participants. He 
first described my great feats in construction— which could scarcely 
have made much of an impression on these people. He went on to say 
that this new job represented a great sacrifice on my part— a statement 
which did not have much meaning in view of the critical situation. He 
expected not only cooperation on their part but also fair treatment. 
"Behave toward him like gentlemen!" he said, employing the English 
word, which he rarely used. What exactly my assignment was, he did 
not clearly state, and I preferred it that way. 

Heretofore Hitler had never introduced a minister in this way. Even 
in a less authoritarian system such a debut would have been of assist- 
ance. In our state the consequences were astonishing, even to me. For a 
considerable time I found myself moving in a kind of vacuum that 
offered no resistance whatsoever. Within the widest limits I could 
practically do as I pleased. 

Funk, who then walked Hitler back to his apartment in the 
Chancellery along with me, promised emotionally on the way that he 
would place everything at my disposal and do all in his power to help 
me. Moreover he kept the promise, with minor exceptions. 

Bormann and I stood chatting with Hitler in the salon for a few 
minutes longer. Before Hitler withdrew to his upstairs rooms, he once 
again recommended that I avail myself of industry as far as possible, 
since I would find the most valuable assistants there. This idea was 
not new to me, for Hitler had in the past often emphasized that one 
did best to let industry handle major tasks directly, for government 
bureaucracy only hampered initiative— this aversion to bureaucrats 
remained a standing point with him. I took this favorable moment with 
Bormann present to assure him that I would indeed be drawing chiefly 
on technicians from industry. But there would have to be no questions 
raised as to their party membership, since many of them kept aloof 
from the party, as was well known. Hitler agreed; he instructed 

203 ) Start in My New Office 

Bormann to go along with this; and so my ministry was— at least until 
the attempted assassination of July 20, 1944— spared the unpleasant prob- 
ings of Bormann s party secretariat. 

That same evening I had a full discussion with Milch, who pledged 
an end to that rivalry the air force had hitherto practiced toward the 
army and navy in matters of procurement. Especially during the early 
months his advice became indispensable; out of our official relationship 
there grew a cordial friendship which has lasted to the present. 

Organized Improvisation 


would have to have some plan of action. Surprising though it may seem, 
the principles were clear to me from the start. From the first day on 
I headed, with a sleepwalkers sureness, toward the one system that 
could possibly achieve success in armaments production. Of cqurse I 
had a certain advantage, for during my two years of construction work 
for the armaments industry on a lower plane I had caught glimpses of 
"many fundamental errors which would have remained hidden from me 
if I had been at the top." 1 

I prepared a plan of organization whose vertical lines represented 
individual items, such as tanks, planes, or submarines. In other words, 
the armaments for the three branches of the service were included. These 
vertical columns were enclosed in numerous rings, each of which was to 
stand for a group of components needed for all guns, tanks, planes, and 
other armaments. Within these rings I considered, for example, the pro- 
duction of forgings or ball bearings or electrical equipment as a whole. 
Accustomed as an architect to three-dimensional thinking, I drew this 
new organizational scheme in perspective. 

On February 18 the top figures in war industry and in the govern- 
ment bureaus having to do with armaments met once again, in the former 
conference room of the Academy of Arts. After I had spoken for an hour, 
they accepted my organizational scheme without cavil and gave their 

( 204 ) 

2°5 ) Organized Improvisation 

endorsement to a statement reviewing the demands for unitary leadership 
made at the February 13 conference and announcing that I was herewith 
being given a mandate for full authority. I prepared to pass this paper 
around the table for signature— a most unusual procedure in relations 
among government boards. 

Hitler's injunctions had had their effect. Milch was the first to de- 
clare himself in full agreement with the proposal and signed the paper 
without more ado. Some of the other participants raised formal objec- 
tions, but Milch used his authority to override them. Only Admiral 
Witzell, the representative of the navy, continued his opposition to the 
last and finally gave his consent only under protest. 

Next day, February 19, I went to the Fuehrers headquarters ac- 
companied by Field Marshal Milch, General Thomas, and General 
Olbricht (as General Fromm's representative) to present my organiza- 
tional plans to Hitler and report to him on the results of the conference. 
Hitler approved of all I had done. 

Immediately after my return Goering summoned me to his hunting 
lodge, Karinhall, more than forty-five miles north of Berlin. After 
Goering had seen Hitlers new Berghof in 1935, he had had his modest 
old hunting lodge rebuilt into a manor that exceeded Hitler's in size. 
The salon was just as large as Hitler s, but with an even bigger picture 
window. At the time Hitler was annoyed by this pomp. But it must be ad- 
mitted that Goering's architect had created a suitable frame for Goering's 
craving for magnificence. It now served as his headquarters. 

Such conferences usually meant the loss of a valuable working 
day. This time, too, when I arrived punctually toward eleven o'clock 
after a long automobile ride, I spent an hour in Goering's reception 
hall looking at pictures and tapestries. For in contrast to Hitler, Goering 
took a large view of the appointed time. Finally he emerged from his 
private apartment on the upper floor, dressed in a flowing green-velvet 
dressing gown, a picturesque note, and descended the stairs. We greeted 
each other rather coolly. With tripping steps he preceded me into his 
office and took his seat at a gigantic desk. I modestly sat down facing 
him. Goering was extremely angry; he complained bitterly that I had not 
invited him to the conference in the Cabinet Room and pushed toward me 
across the vast expanses of the desk an opinion by Erich Neumann, his 
ministerial director for the Four- Year Plan, on the legal implications of 
my own paper. With an agility I would not have thought so fat a man 
capable of, he leaped to his feet and began pacing the big room, frantic 
with agitation. His deputies were all spineless wretches, he declared. By 
giving their signatures they had made themselves my underlings for all 
time to come, and this without even asking him. Of course, this bluster 
was directed against me as well; but the fact that he did not dare storm 
at me signified a weakened position. He could not accept such nibbling 


away at his power, he declared in conclusion. He would go to Hitler 
at once and resign his office as boss of the Four-Year Plan. 2 

At the time such a resignation would certainly have been no loss. 
For although at the start Goering had pushed the Four- Year Plan with 
great energy, by 1942 he was generally regarded as sluggish and distinctly 
averse to work. Increasingly, he gave an impression of instability; he 
took up too many ideas, changed course all the time, and was consistently 

Hitler would probably not have permitted Goering to resign because 
of the political backlash. Instead, he would have sought a compromise. 
I saw that this was something I had to head off, for Hitlers compromises 
were merely evasions and of a sort everyone in the government feared. 
They did not eliminate difficulties but instead made all administrative 
interrelationships more opaque and complicated. 

I knew that I had to do something to build up Goering's prestige. 
For the time being, I assured him that the new arrangement desired by 
Hitler and approved by the representatives of industry and the services 
would in no way infringe on his position as head of the Four- Year Plan. 
At this, Goering seemed mollified. I went on to say that I was ready to 
become his subordinate and carry out my work within the framework of 
the Four-Year Plan. 

Three days later I called on Goering again and showed him a draft 
agreement appointing me "Chief Representative for Armaments within 
the Four- Year Plan." Goering seemed satisfied, although he pointed out 
that I had undertaken much too much and would be wiser to limit my 
goals. Two days later, on March 1, 1942, he signed the decree. It author- 
ized me "to give armaments . . . within the whole of the economy the 
priority which is appropriate for them in wartime. ,,3 This was more power 
than had been given me by the document of February 18, which Goering 
had been so furious about. 

On March 16, shortly after Hitler had approved the matter— he was 
glad to be relieved of all personal difficulties with Goering— I informed 
the German press of my appointment. To make my point more vividly, I 
had dug up an old photograph showing Goering, delighted with my 
design for his Reich Marshal's office building, clapping his hands on my 
shoulders. This was supposed to show that the crisis, which had begun 
to be talked about in Berlin, was now over. However, there was a protest 
from Goering's press agency: I was told that the photo and the decree 
should by rights have been released by Goering alone. 

There were more problems of this sort. His sensitivities aroused, 
Goering complained of having heard from the Italian Ambassador that 
the foreign press was intimating that he had been downgraded. Such re- 
ports were bound to undermine his prestige in industry, he protested. 
Now it was an open secret that Goering's high style of living was financed 
by industry, and I had the feeling that he feared a reduction in his pres- 

207 ) Organized Improvisation 

tige would result in a reduction in these subsidies. I therefore suggested 
that he invite the chief industrialists to a conference in Berlin, in the 
course of which I would declare formally my subordination to him. This 
proposal gratified him enormously; his good humor returned instantly. 

Goering thereupon ordered some fifty industrialists to come to Berlin. 
The conference began with a very brief address by me, saying what I 
had promised, while Goering delivered a long discourse on the importance 
of armaments. He exorted all those present to make the maximum effort, 
and other such commonplaces. On the other hand he did not mention 
my assignment in either a favorable or an unfavorable sense. Thereafter, 
thanks to Goering's lethargy, I was able to work freely and unhampered. 
No doubt he was often jealous of my successes with Hitler; but during 
the next two years he scarcely ever tried to interfere with anything I was 

Goering's own powers seemed to me, given his now reduced au- 
thority, not quite sufficient for my own work. Soon afterward, therefore 
—on March 21— I had Hitler sign another decree: "The requirements of 
the German economy as a whole must be subordinated to the necessities 
of armaments production." Given the usages of the authoritarian system, 
this decree of Hitlers amounted to dictatorial powers over the economy. 

The constitutional forms of our organization were just as improvised 
and vague as all these arrangements. There was no precise statement of 
my assignments or jurisdiction. My feeling was that I was better off 
without such definitions. I did my best to keep the situation fluid. Con- 
sequently, we were able to determine our jurisdiction from case to case, 
depending on need and the impetuosity of my associates. A legalistic 
formulation of our rights, which given Hitlers favorable attitude toward 
me could have been used to acquire a position of almost unlimited power, 
would only have led to jurisdictional disputes with other ministries. It 
would not have achieved our purpose, which was to have everyone pull 
together satisfactorily. 

These vaguenesses were a cancer in Hitler s mode of governing. But 
I was in accord with the system as long as it permitted me to function 
effectively and as long as Hitler signed all the decrees that I presented 
to him for signature. But when he no longer blindly granted my requests 
—and in certain areas he soon stopped doing so— I was condemned to 
either impotence or cunning. 

On the evening of March 2, 1942, about a month after my appoint- 
ment, I invited the architects employed on the rebuilding of Berlin to a 
farewell dinner at Horcher s. The very thing you have forcibly resisted, 
I said to them in a brief address, sooner or later overpowers you. I found 
it strange that my new work was not so alien, although at first sight it 
seemed so remote from what I had previously done. "I have known since 
my university days," I continued, "that if we wish to understand every- 
thing, we must do one thing thoroughly. I have therefore decided to take 


a keen interest in tanks for the moment, trusting that I thereby shall be 
better able to grasp the essence of many other tasks." As a cautious person, 
I said, I had for the time being drawn up my program for the next two 
years. I hoped, however, to be able to return to architecture sooner. My 
wartime assignment should prove of use later on, for we technicians would 
be called on to solve the problems of the future. "Moreover ," I concluded 
somewhat grandiosely, "in the future architects will take over the leader- 
ship in technology." 4 

Equipped with Hitlers grant of full authority, with a peaceable 
Goering in the background, I could go forward with my comprehensive 
plan of "industrial self -responsibility," as I had sketched it in my outline. 
Today it is generally agreed that the astonishingly rapid rise in arma- 
ments production was due to this plan. Its principles, however, were not 
new. Both Field Marshal Milch and my predecessor Todt had already 
adopted the procedure of entrusting eminent technicians from leading 
industrial firms with the management of separate areas of armaments 
production. But Dr. Todt himself had borrowed this idea. The real creator 
of the concept of industrial self -responsibility was Walther Rathenau, the 
great Jewish organizer of the German economy during the First World 
War. He realized that considerable increases in production could be 
achieved by exchange of technical experiences, by division of labor from 
plant to plant, and by standardization. As early as 1917 he declared that 
such methods could guarantee "a doubling of production with no increase 
in equipment and no increase in labor costs." 5 On the top floor of Todt's 
Ministry sat one of Rathenaus old assistants who had been active in his 
raw materials organization during the First World War and had later 
written a memorandum on its structure. Dr. Todt benefited by his advice. 

We formed "directive committees" for the various types of weapons 
and "directive pools" for the allocation of supplies. Thirteen such com- 
mittees were finally established, one for each category of my armaments 
program. Linking these were an equal number of pools. 6 

Alongside these committees and pools I set up development com- 
missions in which army officers met with the best designers in industry. 
These commissions were to supervise new products, suggest improve- 
ments in manufacturing techniques even during the design stage, and 
call a halt to any unnecessary projects. 

The heads of the committees and the pools were to make sure— this 
was vital to our whole approach— that a given plant concentrated on pro- 
ducing only one item, but did so in maximum quantity. Because of Hitler s 
and Goering's continual restiveness, expressed in sudden shifts of pro- 
gram, the factories had hitherto tried to assure themselves of four or five 
different contracts simultaneously, and if possible, from different branches 
of the services, so that they could shift to alternative contracts in case of 
sudden cancellations. Moreover, the Wehrmacht frequently assigned con- 

209 ) Organized Improvisation 

tracts only for a limited time. Thus, for example, before 1942 the manu- 
facture of ammunition was checked or increased depending on consump- 
tion, which came in sudden bursts because of the blitz campaigns. This 
state of affairs kept the factories from throwing all their productive energy 
into making ammunition. We provided contractual guarantees of con- 
tinued procurement and assigned the types we needed among the various 

By dint of these changes, the armaments production of the early years 
of the war, which had been on a more or less piecework basis, was con- 
verted to industrial mass production. Amazing results were soon to show 
up; but significantly enough, not in those industries which had already 
been working along modern lines of efficiency, such as the automobile 
industry. These scarcely lent themselves to any increase in production. 
I regarded my task principally as one of tracking down and defining 
problems so far screened by long years of routine; but I left their solution 
to the specialists. Obsessed with my task, I did not try to keep down the 
extent of my responsibilities, but rather to take in more and more areas 
of the economy. Reverence for Hitler, a sense of duty, ambition, pride 
—all these elements were operative. After all, at thirty-six I was the 
youngest minister in the Reich. My Industry Organization soon com- 
prised more than ten thousand assistants and aides, but in our Ministry 
itself there were only two hundred and eighteen officials at work. 7 This 
proportion was in keeping with my view of the Ministry as merely a 
steering organization, with the chief thrust of our operation lying in "in- 
dustrial self -responsibility." 

The traditional arrangement provided that most matters would be 
submitted to the minister by his state secretary. The latter functioned 
as a kind of sieve, deciding the importance of things at his own discretion. 
I eliminated this procedure and made directly subordinate to myself more 
than thirty leaders of the Industry Organization and no less than ten 
department chiefs* in the Ministry. In principle they were all supposed 
to settle their interrelationships among themselves, but I took the liberty 

* All department heads under my direction were empowered to sign orders as 
"deputized by" the minister rather than "in behalf of" the minister. This was a tech- 
nical breach in the rules of the state bureaucracy, for it implied that they were 
authorized to act independently, a power usually reserved to state secretaries. I 
ignored the protests submitted by the Minister of the Interior, who was responsible 
for preserving the regular procedures of government administration. 

I brought the head of the Planning Department, Willy Liebel, from Nuremberg, 
where he had been mayor. The director of the Technical Department, Karl Saur, had 
risen from the intermediate ranks of party functionaries, after previously occupying 
a subordinate position in industry. The head of the Supply Department, Dr. Walter 
Schieber, was a chemist by profession; he was typical of the older party member in 
the SS and party who had had previous experience as specialists. Xaver Dorsch, my 
deputy in the Todt Organization, was our oldest party member. The head of the 
department responsible for consumer goods production, Seebauer, had also joined the 
party long before 1933. 


of intervening in important questions or whenever differences of opinion 

Our method of work was just as unusual as this form of organiza- 
tion. The old-line officials of the government bureaucracy spoke dis- 
dainfully of a "dynamic Ministry" or a "Ministry without an organization 
plan" and a "Ministry without officials." It was said that I applied rough- 
and-ready or "American" methods. My comment, "If jurisdictions are 
sharply separated, we are actually encouraging a limited point of view," 8 
was prompted by rebellion against the caste mentality of the system, but 
also bore some resemblance to Hitler s notions of improvised govern- 
ment by an impulsive genius. 

Another principle of mine also gave offense. This had to do with 
personnel policy. As soon as I assumed my post I gave instructions, as the 
Fuehrer s Minutes of February 19, 1942, record, that the leading men in 
important departments who were "over fifty-five years old must be 
assigned a deputy who is no older than forty." 

Whenever I explained my organizational plans to Hitler, he showed 
a striking lack of interest. I had the impression that he did not like to 
deal with these questions; indeed, in certain realms he was altogether 
incapable of distinguishing the important from the unimportant. He also 
did not like establishing clear lines of jurisdiction. Sometimes he de- 
liberately assigned bureaus or individuals the same or similar tasks. 
"That way," he used to say, "the stronger one does the job." 

Within half a year after my taking office we had significantly in- 
creased production in all the areas within our scope. Production in 
August 1942, according to the Index Figures for German Armaments 
End-Products, as compared with the February production, had increased 
by 27 percent for guns, by 25 percent for tanks, while ammunition pro- 
duction almost doubled, rising 97 percent. The total productivity in 
armaments increased by 59.6 percent. 9 Obviously we had mobilized 
reserves that had hitherto lain fallow. 

After two and a half years, in spite of the beginning of heavy bomb- 
ing, we had raised our entire armaments production from an average 
index figure of 98 for the year 1941 to a summit of 322 in July 1944. Dur- 
ing the same period the labor force expanded by only about 30 percent. 
We had succeeded in doubling the output of labor and had achieved the 
very results Rathenau had predicted in 1917 as the effect of efficiency: 
doubling production without increasing equipment or labor costs. 

It was not that any genius was at work here, though that has often 
been asserted. Many of the technicians in my office would undoubtedly 
have been more fit for the job, as far as knowledge of the fields involved 
is concerned. But none of them could have thrown the nimbus of Hitler 
into the balance as I could, and that made all the difference. The back- 
ing of the Fuehrer counted for everything. 

211 ) Organized Improvisation 

Aside from all organizational innovations, things went so well be- 
cause I applied the methods of democratic economic leadership. The 
democracies were on principle committed to placing trust in the re- 
sponsible businessmen as long as that trust was justified. Thus they re- 
warded initiative, aroused an awareness of mission, and spurred decision 
making. Among us, on the other hand, all such elements had long ago 
been buried. Pressure and coercion kept production going, to be sure, 
but destroyed all spontaneity. I felt it necessary to issue a declaration to 
the effect that industry was not "knowingly lying to us, stealing from us, 
or otherwise trying to damage our war economy." 10 

The party felt acutely challenged by that attitude, as I was to find 
out after July 20, 1944. Exposed to sharp attacks, I had to defend my 
system of delegated responsibility in a letter to Hitler. 11 

Paradoxically, from 1942 on, the developments in the warring coun- 
tries moved in an opposite direction. The Americans, for example, found 
themselves compelled to introduce an authoritarian stiffening into their 
industrial structure, whereas we tried to loosen the regimented economic 
system. The elimination of all criticism of superiors had in the course of 
years led to a situation in which mistakes and failures, misplanning, or 
duplication of effort were no longer even noted. I saw to the formation 
of committees in which discussion was possible, shortages and mistakes 
could be uncovered, and their elimination considered. We often joked 
that we were on the point of reintroducing the parliamentary system. 12 
Our new system had created one of the prerequisites for balancing out 
the weaknesses of every authoritarian order. Important matters were not 
to be regulated solely by the military principle, that is by channels of 
command from top to bottom. But for such "parliamentarism" to work, 
of course, the committees mentioned above had to be headed by persons 
who allowed arguments and counterarguments to be stated before they 
made a decision. 

Grotesquely enough, this system met with considerable reserve on 
the part of the factory heads. Early in my job I had sent out a circular 
letter asking them to inform me of their "fundamental needs and obser- 
vations on a larger scale then previously." I expected a flood of letters, 
but there was no response. At first I suspected my office staff of with- 
holding the mail from me. But actually none had come in. The factory 
heads, as I learned later, feared reprimands from the Gauleiters. 

There was more than enough criticism from above to below, but 
the necessary complement of criticism from below to above was hard to 
come by. I often had the feeling that I was hovering in the air, since my 
decisions produced no critical response. 

We owed the success of our programs to thousands of technicians 
with special achievements to their credit to whom we now entrusted 
the responsibility for whole segments of the armaments industry. This 
aroused their buried enthusiasm. They also took gladly to my unorthodox 


style of leadership. Basically, I exploited the phenomenon of the tech- 
nician's often blind devotion to his task. Because of what seems to be 
the moral neutrality of technology, these people were without any 
scruples about their activities. The more technical the world imposed on 
us by the war, the more dangerous was this indifference of the tech- 
nician to the direct consequences of his anonymous activities. 

In my work I preferred "uncomfortable associates to compliant 
tools." 13 The party, on the other hand, had a deep distrust for non- 
political specialists. Fritz Sauckel, always one of the most radical of the 
party leaders, once commented that if they had begun by shooting a few 
factory heads, the others would have reacted with better performances. 

For two years my position was unassailable. After the generals' 
putsch of July 20, 1944, Bormann, Goebbels, Ley, and Sauckel prepared 
to cut me down to size. I quickly appealed to Hitler in a letter stating 
that I did not feel strong enough to go on with my job if it were going 
to be subjected to political standards. 14 

The nonparty members of my Ministry enjoyed a legal protection 
highly unusual in Hitler's state. For over the objections of the Minister 
of Justice I had established the principle, right at the beginning of my 
job, that there would be no indictments for sabotage of armaments ex- 
cept on my motion. 15 This proviso protected my associates even after 
July 20, 1944. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the Gestapo chief, wanted to indict 
three general managers, Biicher of the AEG electrical company, Vogler 
of the United Steel Works, and Reusch of the GutehoflEnungshiitte (the 
mining combine), for "defeatist" conversations. He came to me for au- 
thorization. I pointed out that the nature of our work compelled us to 
speak candidly about the situation and thus fended off the Gestapo. On 
the other hand, I applied severe penalties for abuse of our honor system 
—if, for example, someone furnished false data in order to hoard im- 
portant raw materials. For actions of this sort would result in the with- 
holding of arms from the front. 16 

From the first day on I considered our gigantic organization tem- 
porary. Just as I myself wanted to return to architecture after the war 
and had even asked Hitler for an assurance to that effect, I felt we had 
to promise the uneasy leaders of business that our system of organiza- 
tion was solely a war measure. In peacetime, industry could not be asked, 
I told them, to give up their best men or to share their knowledge with 
rival enterprises. 17 

Along with this, I also made an effort to preserve the style of im- 
provisation. The idea that bureaucratic methods were now taking root 
inside my own organization depressed me. Again and again I called upon 
my associates to cut down on record keeping, to make agreements in- 
formally in conversation and by means of telephone calls, and to eschew 

213 ) Organized Improvisation 

the multiplication of "transactions," as bureaucratic jargon called filling 
a file. Moreover, the bombing raids on German cities forced us to con- 
stant ingenuities. There were times when I actually regarded these raids 
as helpful— witness my ironic reaction to the destruction of the Ministry 
in the air raid of November 22, 1943: "Although we have been fortunate 
in that large parts of the current files of the Ministry have burned and 
so relieved us for a time of useless ballast, we cannot really expect that 
such events will continually introduce the necessary fresh air into our 
work/' 18 

In spite of this technical and industrial progress, even at the height 
of the military successes in 1940 and 1941 the level of armaments pro- 
duction of the First World War was not reached. During the first year 
of the war in Russia, production figures were only a fourth of what they 
had been in the autumn of 19x8. Three years later, in the spring of 1944, 
when we were nearing our production maximum, ammunition produc- 
tion still lagged behind that of the First World War— considering the 
total production of Germany at that time together with Austria and 
Czechoslovakia. 10 

Among the causes for this backwardness I always reckoned excessive 
bureaucratization, which I fought in vain. 20 For example, the size of the 
staff of the Ordnance Office was ten times what it had been during the 
First World War. The cry for simplification of administration rims 
through all my speeches and letters from 1942 to the end of 1944. The 
longer I fought the typically German bureaucracy, whose tendencies 
were aggravated by the authoritarian system, the more my criticism 
assumed a political cast. This matter became something of an obsession 
with me, for on the morning of July 20, 1944, a few hours before the 
attempted assassination, I wrote to Hitler that Americans and Russians 
knew how to act with organizationally simple methods and therefore 
achieved greater results, whereas we were hampered by superannuated 
forms of organization and therefore could not match the others' feats. 
The war, I said, was also a contest between two systems of organization, 
the "struggle of our system of overbred organization against the art of 
improvisation on the opposing side." If we did not arrive at a different 
system of organization, I continued, it would be evident to posterity that 
our outmoded, tradition-bound, and arthritic organizational system had 
lost the struggle. 


Sins of Omission 

It remains one of the oddities of this war that hitler demanded far 
less from his people 1 than Churchill and Roosevelt did from their re- 
spective nations. The discrepancy between the total mobilization of labor 
forces in democratic England and the casual treatment of this question 
in authoritarian Germany is proof of the regime's anxiety not to risk 
any shift in the popular mood. The German leaders were not disposed 
to make sacrifices themselves or to ask sacrifices of the people. They tried 
to keep the morale of the people in the best possible state by conces- 
sions. Hitler and the majority of his political followers belonged to the 
generation who as soldiers had witnessed the Revolution of November 
1918 and had never forgotten it. In private conversations Hitler indi- 
cated that after the experience of 1918 one could not be cautious enough. 
In order to anticipate any discontent, more effort and money was ex- 
pended on supplies of consumer goods, on military pensions or com- 
pensation to women for the loss of earnings by their men in the services, 
than in the countries with democratic governments. Whereas Churchill 
promised his people only blood, sweat, and tears, all we heard during 
the various phases and various crises of the war was Hitlers slogan: "The 
final victory is certain." This was a confession of political weakness. It 
betrayed great concern over a loss of popularity which might develop 
into an insurrectionary mood. 

Alarmed by the setbacks on the Russian front, in the spring of 1942 

( 214 ) 

215 ) Sow °f Omission 

I considered total mobilization of all auxiliary forces. What was more, 
I urged that "the war must be ended in the shortest possible time; if not, 
Germany will lose the war. We must win it by the end of October, before 
the Russian winter begins, or we have lost it once and for all. Conse- 
quently, we can only win with the weapons we have now, not with those 
we are going to have next year." In some inexplicable way this situation 
analysis came to the knowledge of The Times (London), which published 
it on September 7, 1942. 2 The Times article actually summed up the 
points on which Milch, Fromm, and I had agreed at the time. 

"Our feelings tell us that this year we are facing the decisive turning 
point in our history," I also declared publicly in April 1942, 3 without 
suspecting that the turning point was impending: with the encirclement 
of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad, the annihilation of the Africa Corps, the 
successful Allied land operations in North Africa, and the first massive 
air raids on German cities. We had also reached a turning point in our 
wartime economy; for until the autumn of 1941 the economic leader- 
ship had been basing its politics on short wars with long stretches of 
quiet in between. Now the permanent war was beginning. 

As I saw it, a mobilization of all reserves should have begun with 
the heads of the party hierarchy. This seemed all the more proper since 
Hitler himself had solemnly declared to the Reichstag on September 1, 
1939, that there would be no privations which he himself was not pre- 
pared to assume at once. 

In actual fact he at last agreed to suspend all the building projects 
he was still engaged on, including those at Obersalzberg. I cited this 
noble gesture of the Fuehrer's two weeks after entering office when I 
addressed the group that gave us the most difficulties, the assembled 
Gauleiters and Reichsleiters: "Consideration of future peacetime tasks 
must never be allowed to influence a decision. I have instructions from 
the Fuehrer to report to him in the future on any such hindrances to 
our armaments production, which from now on can no longer be tol- 
erated." That was a plain enough threat, even though I softened it some- 
what by saying that up to the winter of this year each of us had cherished 
special wishes. But now, I said, the military situation demanded that all 
superfluous construction be halted, anywhere in the country. It was our 
duty to lead the way by presenting a good example, even if the savings 
in labor forces and materials were not significant. 

I took it for granted that in spite of the monotonous tone in which 
I had read these exhortations, anyone there would see their logic and 
obey. After the speech, however, I was surrounded by party leaders who 
wanted some special building project of theirs to be exempted from the 
general rule. 

Reichsleiter Bormann was the arch offender. He easily persuaded a 


vacillating Hitler that the Obersalzberg project need not be canceled. 
The large crew employed there, who had to be provided for, actually 
stayed right there on the site until the end of the war, even though three 
weeks after the meeting I had again wrested a suspension order from 

Then Gauleiter Sauckel pressed forward to plead that his "Party 
Forum" in Weimar would not be affected. He too went on building 
undeterred until the end of the war. Robert Ley fought for a pigsty on 
his model farm. This was actually a war priority, he argued, since his 
experiments in hog raising were of great importance for food produc- 
tion. I turned down this request in writing but took gleeful delight in 
addressing the letter: "To the Reich Organization Chief of the National 
Socialist Party and Chief of the German Labor Front. Subject: Your 

Even after I had made this ringing appeal, Hitler went ahead and had 
the tumble-down castle of Klessheim near Salzburg rebuilt into a lux- 
urious guest house at an expenditure of many millions of marks. Near 
Berchtesgaden, Himmler erected a country lodge for his mistress and did 
it so secretly that I did not hear of it until the last weeks of the war. 
Even after 1942, Hitler encouraged one of his Gauleiters to renovate a 
hotel and the Posen Castle, both projects drawing heavily on essential 
materials. The same Gauleiter had a private residence built for him- 
self in the vicinity of the city. In 1942--43 new special trains were built 
for Ley, Keitel, and others, although this kind of thing tied down valu- 
able raw materials and technicians. For the most part, however, these 
whims of the party functionaries were concealed from me. Given the 
enormous powers of the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters there was no way 
to check up on what they were doing. I therefore could rarely inter- 
pose a veto— which in any case was disregarded. As late as the summer 
of 1944 Hitler and Bormann were capable of informing their Minister of 
Armaments that a Munich manufacturer of picture frames must not be 
made to shift to war production. A few months before, on their personal 
order, the "rug factories and other producers of artistic materials," which 
were engaged in manufacturing rugs and tapestries for Hitler's postwar- 
buildings, were given a special status. 4 

* Fiihrerprotokoll, March 5-6, 1942, Point 17, 3: "The Fuehrer has ordered that 
work at Obersalzberg be halted. Compose appropriate memorandum to Reichsleiter 
Bormann." But two and a half years later, on September 8, 1944, construction there 
was still continuing. Bormann wrote to his wife: "Herr Speer who, as I see time and 
again, has not the slightest respect for me, simply went to Hagen and Schenk and 
asked for a report on the Obersalzberg construction. A crazy way to go about things! 
Instead of going through the proper channels and addressing himself to me, the God 
of Building, without any more ado he ordered my men to report directly to him! 
And since we are dependent on him for materials and labor, all I can do is put a 
good face on the matter." (Bormann, Letters, p. 103.) 

217 ) Sins of Omission 

After only nine years of rule the leadership was so corrupt that even 
in the critical phase of the war it could not cut back on its luxurious style 
of living. For "representational reasons" the leaders all needed big 
houses, hunting lodges, estates and palaces, many servants, a rich table, 
and a select wine cellar.* They were also concerned about their lives to 
an insane degree. Hitler himself, wherever he went, first of all issued 
orders for building bunkers for his personal protection. The thickness 
of their roofs increased with the caliber of the bombs until it reached 
sixteen and a half feet. Ultimately there were veritable systems of bunk- 
ers in Rastenburg, in Berlin, at Obersalzberg, in Munich, in the guest 
palace near Salzburg, at the Nauheim headquarters, and on the Somme. 
And in 1944 he had two underground headquarters blasted into moun- 
tains in Silesia and Thuringia, the project tying up hundreds of indis- 
pensable mining specialists and thousands of workmen. 5 

Hitler s obvious fear and his exaggeration of the importance of his 
own person inspired his entourage to go in for equally exaggerated 
measures of personal protection. Goering had extensive underground 
installations built not only in Karinhall, but even in the isolated castle 
of Veldenstein near Nuremberg, which he hardly ever visited. 6 The road 
from Karinhall to Berlin, forty miles long and leading mostly through 
lonely woods, had to be provided with concrete shelters at regular inter- 
vals. When Ley saw the effect of a heavy bomb on a public shelter, he 
was interested solely in comparing the thickness of the ceiling with that 
in his private bunker in the rarely attacked suburb of Grunewald. More- 
over, the Gauleiters— on orders from Hitler, who was convinced of their 
indispensability— had additional shelters built outside the cities for their 
personal protection. 

Of all the urgent questions that weighed upon me during my early 
weeks in office, solution of the labor problem was the most pressing. 
Late one evening in the middle of March, I inspected one of the lead- 
ing Berlin armaments plants, Rheinmetall-Borsig, and found its work- 
shops filled with valuable machinery, but unused. There were not 
enough workers to man a second shift. Similar conditions prevailed in 

* For propaganda reasons, Goebbels tried to change the life style of the prom- 
inent men in government and the party, but in vain. See his diary, February 22, 1942: 
"Bormann has issued a directive to the party regarding the need for greater simplicity 
in the conduct of the leaders, particularly with respect to banquets— a reminder to 
the party that it should provide a good example for the people. This directive is most 
welcome. I hope it will be taken to heart. In this connection I have become rather 
skeptical." Bormann's directive had no effect. On May 22, 1943, more than a year 
later, Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Because of the tense situation domestically the 
people naturally have been keeping a sharp eye on the life style of our so-called 
celebrities. Unfortunately many of the prominent people pay no heed; some of them 
are living a life which can in no way be called suitable under current conditions." 


other factories. Moreover, during the day we had to reckon with difficul- 
ties with the electricity supply, whereas during the evening and night 
hours the drain on the available supply was considerably smaller. Since 
new plants worth some 11 billion marks were being built which would 
be faced with shortages of machine tools, it seemed to me more rational 
to suspend most of the new building and employ the labor force thus 
released to establish a second shift. 

Hitler seemed to accept this logic. He signed a decree ordering re- 
duction of the volume of building to 3 billion marks. But then he balked 
when, in carrying out this edict, I wanted to suspend long-term build- 
ing projects by the chemical industry involving about a billion marks. 
For he always wanted to have everything at once and reasoned as fol- 
lows: "Perhaps the war with Russia will soon be ended. But then I 
have more far-reaching plans, and for them I need more synthetic fuel 
than before. We must go on with the new factories, even though they 
may not be finished for years." A year later, on March 2, 1943, I again 
had to remonstrate that there was no point to ''building factories which 
are intended to serve great future programs and will not begin to pro- 
duce until after January 1, 1945." 7 Hitlers wrong-headed decision of 
the spring of 1942 was still a drag upon our armaments production in 
September 1944, in a military situation that had meanwhile become 

Despite Hitlers countermanding of my plan, it had nevertheless 
freed several hundred thousand construction workers, who could have 
been transferred to armaments production. But then a new, unexpected 
trouble arose: the head of the "Business Department for Labor Assign- 
ment within the Four- Year Plan," Ministerial Director Dr. Mansfeld, told 
me frankly that he lacked authority to transfer the released construction 
workers from one district to another over the objections of the Gau- 
leiters. 8 And in fact the Gauleiters, for all their rivalries and intrigues, 
closed ranks whenever any of their privileges were threatened. I realized 
that in spite of my strong position I could never deal with them alone. 
I needed someone from their number to act as my ally. I would also need 
special powers from Hitler. 

The man I had in mind was my old friend Karl Hanke, longtime 
state secretary under Goebbels, who since January 1941 had been Gau- 
leiter of Lower Silesia. Hitler proved willing to nominate a commissioner 

* This construction project tied up high-grade steel and many specialists. I op- 
posed Hitler's view, arguing that "it is better to get one hydrogenation plant built in 
a few months than to build several over a period three times as long employing a 
third of the necessary construction workers. The plant that is built quickly by con- 
centrating all the labor on the one project will provide fuel for many months to come, 
whereas if the usual practice is followed, the first deliveries of additional fuel will 
not be ready until a much later date." (Speech, April 18, 1942.) 

2ig ) Sins of Omission 

from among the Gauleiters who would be assigned to me. But Bormann 
was quick to parry. For Hanke was considered one of my adherents. His 
appointment would have meant not only a reinforcement of my power 
but also an infringement of Bormann's realm, the party hierarchy. 

Two days after my first request, when I again approached Hitler 
on the matter, he was still acquiescent to the idea, but had objections 
to my choice. "Hanke hasn't been a Gauleiter long enough and doesn't 
command the necessary respect. I've talked with Bormann. We'll take 

Bormann had not only put in his own candidate but had managed 
to have him made his, Bormann's, direct subordinate. Goering rightly 
protested that what was involved was a task hitherto handled within the 
framework of the Four-Year Plan. With his usual indifference in admin- 
istrative matters, Hitler thereupon appointed Sauckel "Commissioner 
General," but placed him in Goering's Four- Year Plan organization. 
Goering protested once more, since the way the thing was handled 
seemed to diminish his prestige. The appointment of Sauckel should 
have come from Goering himself. But Hitler had overlooked that nicety. 
Once again Bormann had struck a blow at Goering's position. 

Sauckel and I were summoned to Hitlers headquarters. In giving 
us the document authorizing the appointment, Hitler pointed out that 
basically there could not be any such thing as a labor problem. He re- 
peated, in effect, what he had already stated on November 9, 1941: "The 
area working directly for us embraces more than two hundred fifty million 
people. Let no one doubt that we will succeed in involving every one of 
these millions in the labor process." 9 The necessary labor force, there- 
fore, was to come from the occupied territories. Hitler instructed Sauckel 
to bring the needed workers in by any means whatsoever. That order 
marked the beginning of a fateful segment of my work. 

During the early weeks of our association we cooperated smoothly. 
Sauckel gave us his pledge to eliminate all labor shortages and to pro- 
vide replacements for specialists drafted into the services. For my part, 
I helped Sauckel gain authority and supported him wherever I could. 
Sauckel had promised a great deal, for in every peacetime year the attri- 
tion of the labor force by age or death was balanced by the maturing of 
some six hundred thousand young men. Now, however, not only these 

* I must share the responsibility for Sauckel's dire labor policies. Despite dif- 
ferences of opinion on other matters, I was always in basic agreement with his mass 
deportations of foreign labor to Germany. Since Edward L. Homse, Foreign Labor in 
Nazi Germany (Princeton, 1967) gives exhaustive details on the little war that soon 
developed between Sauckel and me, I can restrict myself to the salient points. I agree 
with Homse that these internal enmities and clashes were typical. Dr. Allan S. 
Milward's recent book, The New Order and the French Economy (London, 1969), 
also gives an accurate picture. 


men but sizable segments of the industrial working class were being 
drafted. In 1942, consequently, the war economy was short far more 
than one million workers. 

To put the matter briefly, Sauckel did not meet his commitments. 
Hitler s fine rhetoric about drawing labor out of a population of two 
hundred fifty million came to nought, partly because of the ineffective- 
ness of the German administration in the occupied territories, partly 
because of the preference of the men involved for taking to the forests 
and joining the partisans sooner than be dragged off for labor service 
in Germany. 

No sooner had the first foreign workers begun arriving in the fac- 
tories than I began hearing protests from our Industry Organization. 
They had a number of objections to make. The first was as follows: The 
technical specialists now being replaced by foreigners had occupied key 
posts in vital industries. Any sabotage in these plants would have far- 
reaching consequences. What was to prevent enemy espionage services 
from planting agents in Sauckel's contingents? 

Another problem was that there were not enough interpreters to 
handle the various linguistic groups. Without adequate communication, 
these new workers were as good as useless. 

It seemed far more practicable to all concerned to employ German 
women rather than assorted foreign labor. Businessmen came to me with 
statistics showing that the employment of German women during the 
First World War had been significantly higher than it was now. They 
showed me photographs of workers streaming out of the same ammuni- 
tion factory at closing time in 1918 and 1942; in the earlier war they had 
been predominantly women; now they were almost entirely men. They 
also had pictures from American and British magazines which indicated 
to what extent women were pitching in on the industrial front in those 
countries. 10 

At the beginning of April 1942 I went to Sauckel with the proposi- 
tion that we recruit our labor from the ranks of German women. He 
replied brusquely that the question of where to obtain which workers 
and how to distribute them was his business. Moreover, he said, as a 
Gauleiter he was Hitler s subordinate and responsible to the Fuehrer 
alone. But before the discussion was over, he offered to put the ques- 
tion to Goering, who as Commissioner of the Four- Year Plan should 
have the final say. Our conference with Goering took place in Karinhall. 
Goering showed plainly that he was flattered at being consulted. He 
behaved with excessive amiability toward Sauckel and was markedly 
cooler toward me. I was scarcely allowed to advance my arguments; 
Sauckel and Goering continually interrupted me. Sauckel laid great weight 
on the danger that factory work might inflict moral harm upon German 
womanhood; not only might their "psychic and emotional life" be affected 

221 ) Sins of Omission 

but also their ability to bear. Goering totally concurred. But to be abso- 
lutely sure, Sauckel went to Hitler immediately after the conference and 
had him confirm the decision. 

All my good arguments were thereby blown to the winds. Sauckel 
informed his fellow Gauleiters of his victory in a proclamation in which, 
among other things, he stated: "In order to provide the German house- 
wife, above all mothers of many children . . . with tangible relief from 
her burdens, the Fuehrer has commissioned me to bring into the Reich 
from the eastern territories some four to five hundred thousand select, 
healthy, and strong girls." 11 Whereas by 1943 England had reduced the 
number of maidservants by two-thirds, nothing of the sort took place in 
Germany until the end of the war. 12 Some 1.4 million women continued 
to be employed as household help. In addition, half a million Ukrainian 
girls helped solve the servant problem for party functionaries— a fact 
that soon caused a good deal of talk among the people. 

Armaments production is directly dependent on the supply of crude 
steel. During the First World War the German war economy drew on 
46.5 percent of its crude steel production. One of the first facts I learned 
when I took office was that the parallel figure was only 37.5 percent. 13 
In order to be able to gain more steel for armaments, I proposed to Milch 
that we jointly undertake the allocation of raw materials. 

On April 2, therefore, we once again set out for Karinhall. Goering 
at first beat about the bush, talking on a wide range of subjects, but 
finally he agreed to our suggestions about establishing a central planning 
authority within the Four- Year Plan. Impressed by our firmness, he asked 
almost shyly: "Could you possibly take in my friend Korner? Otherwise, 
he'll feel sad at the demotion."* 

This "Central Planning" soon became the most important institu- 
tion in our war economy. Actually it was incomprehensible that a top 
board of this sort to direct the various programs and priorities had not 
been established long ago. Until about 1939 Goering had personally 
taken care of this matter; but afterward there was no one with au- 
thority who could grasp the increasingly complicated and increasingly 
urgent problems and who could have leaped into the breach when 
Goering began shirking. 14 Goering's decree creating the office of Central 
Planning did in fact provide that he would have the final say whenever 
he thought necessary. But as I expected, he never asked about anything 
and we for our part had no reason ever to bother him. 15 

The Central Planning meetings took place in the large conference 
hall in my Ministry. They dragged on endlessly, with a vast number of 
participants. Ministers and state secretaries would come in person. Sup- 

Korner was Goering's state secretary and confidant. 


ported by their experts, they would fight for their shares in sometimes 
highly dramatic tones. The task was particulary tricky, for we had to 
trim the civilian branch of the economy, but not so much as to impair 
its efficiency in producing what would be needed for the war industries 
or in providing basic necessities for the population. 16 

I myself was trying to push through a sizable cut in consumer goods 
production— especially since the consumer industries at the beginning 
of 1942 were producing at a rate only 3 percent below our peacetime 
level. But in 1942 the utmost I could manage was a 12 percent cut- 
back. 17 For after only three months of such austerity, Hitler began to 
regret this policy, and on June 28-29, 1942, decreed "that the fabrica- 
tion of products for the general supply of the population must be re- 
sumed/' I protested, arguing that "such a slogan today will encourage 
those who have all along been averse to our concentration on arma- 
ments to resume resistance to the present line." 18 By "those" I meant the 
party functionaries. But Hitler remained deaf to these reminders. 

Once again my efforts to organize an effective war economy had 
been ruined by Hitlers vacillation. 

In addition to more workers and more crude steel, we needed an 
expansion of the railroads. This was essential even though the Reichs- 
bahn had not yet recovered from the disaster of the Russian winter. 
Deep into German territory the tracks were still clogged by paralyzed 
trains. Transports of important war materials were therefore subject to 
intolerable delays. 

On March 5, 1942, Dr. Julius Dorpmiiller, our Minister of Transpor- 
tation and a spry man in spite of his seventy-three years, went to head- 
quarters with me in order to report to Hitler on transportation problems. 
I explained the catastrophic predicament that we were in, but since 
Dorpmiiller gave me only lame support, Hitler, as always, chose the 
brighter view of the situation. He postponed the important question, 
remarking that "conditions are probably not so serious as Speer sees 

Two weeks later, on my urging, he consented to designate a young 
official as successor to the sixty-five-year-old state secretary in the Min- 
istry of Transportation. But Dorpmiiller would not hear of it. "My state 
secretary too old?" he exclaimed when I told him what we had in mind. 
"That young man? When I was president of one of the Reichsbahn 
boards of directors in 1922, he was just starting in railroad work as a 
Reichsbahn inspector." He succeeded in keeping things as they were. 

Two months later, however, on May 21, 1941, Dorpmiiller was 
forced to confess to me: "The Reichsbahn has so few cars and loco- 
motives available for the German area that it can no longer assume re- 
sponsibility for meeting the most urgent transportation needs." This 
description of the situation, as my official journal noted, "was tanta- 

223 ) Si™ °f Omission 

mount to a declaration of bankruptcy by the Reichsbahn." That same 
day the Reich Minister of Transportation offered me the post of "traffic 
dictator," but I refused. 19 

Two days later Hitler let me bring a young Reichsbahn inspector 
named Dr. Ganzenmuller to meet him. During the past winter Dr. Gan- 
zenmuller had restored railroad traffic in a part of Russia (on the stretch 
between Minsk and Smolensk) after it had totally broken down. Hitler 
was impressed: "I like the man; I'm going to make him state secretary at 
once." Shouldn't we speak with Dorpmuller about that first, I suggested. 
"Absolutely not!" Hitler exclaimed. "Don t let either Dorpmuller or Gan- 
zenmuller know anything about it. Ill simply summon you, Herr Speer, 
to headquarters with your man. Then Til have the Transportation Min- 
ister come here separately." 

On Hitlers instructions both men were put up at headquarters in 
different barracks, and Dr. Ganzenmuller entered Hitlers office without 
knowing what awaited him. There are minutes of Hitler s remarks which 
were made the same day: 

The transportation problem is crucial; therefore it must be solved. All 
my life, but more so than ever in the past winter, I have confronted crucial 
questions that had to be solved. So-called experts and men who by rights 
should have been leaders repeatedly told me: "That isn't possible, that 
won't do!" I cannot resign myself to such talk! There are problems that 
absolutely have to be solved. Where real leaders are present, these problems 
always are solved and always will be solved. This cannot be done by pleas- 
ant methods. Pleasantness is not what counts for me; in the same way, it 
is a matter of complete indifference to me what posterity will say about 
the methods I have been compelled to use. For me there is only a single 
question that must be solved: We must win the war or Germany faces 

Hitler went on to recount how he had pitted his will against the 
disaster of the past winter and against the generals who urged retreat. 
From this, he made a slight jump to the transport problem and men- 
tioned some of the measures which I had earlier recommended to him 
as necessary if order were to be restored to the railways. Without call- 
ing in the Minister of Transportation, who was now waiting outside, 
also ignorant of what this was all about, he appointed Ganzenmuller the 
new state secretary in the Transportation Ministry because "he has 
proved at the front that he possesses the energy to restore order to the 
muddled transportation situation." Only at this point were Minister 
of Transportation Dorpmuller and his assistant, Ministerial Director 
Leibbrandt, brought into the conference. He had decided, Hitler an- 
nounced, to intervene in the transportation situation, since victory de- 


pended on it. Then he continued with one of his standard arguments: 
"In my day I started with nothing, an obscure soldier in the World War, 
and began my career only when all others, who seemed more destined 
to leadership than I, failed. The whole course of my life proves that I 
never capitulate. The tasks of the war must be mastered. I repeat: For 
me the word 'impossible' does not exist." And he repeated, almost 
screaming: "It does not exist for me!" Thereupon he informed the Min- 
ister of Transportation that he had appointed the former Reichsbahn 
inspector the new state secretary in the Ministry of Transportation— an 
embarrassing situation for the Minister, for the state secretary, and for 
me as well. 

Hitler had always spoken with great respect of Dorpmiiller s ex- 
pertise. In view of that Dorpmiiller could have expected that the ques- 
tion of his deputy would first be discussed with him. But apparently 
Hitler (as was so often the case when he confronted experts) wanted 
to avoid an awkward argument by presenting the Minister of Trans- 
portation with a fait accompli. And in fact Dorpmiiller took this humili- 
ation in silence. 

Hitler now turned to Field Marshal Milch and me and instructed us 
to act temporarily as transportation dictators. We were to see to it that 
the requirements were "met to the largest extent and in the fastest time." 
With the disarming comment, "We cannot allow the war to be lost be- 
cause of the transportation question; therefore it can be solved!" 20 Hitler 
adjourned the meeting. 

In fact it was solved. The young state secretary found procedures 
for handling the backup of trains. He speeded traffic and was able to 
provide for the increased transportation needs of the war plants. A 
special committee for rolling stock took charge of the locomotives dam- 
aged by the Russian winter; repair techniques were much accelerated. 
Instead of the previous craft system of manufacturing locomotives, we 
went over to assembly-line methods and increased production many 
fold. 21 In spite of the steadily rising demands of the war, traffic con- 
tinued to flow in the future, or at least until the systematic air raids of 
the fall of 1944 once again throttled traffic and made transportation, 
this time for good, the greatest bottleneck in our war economy. 

When Goering heard that we intended to increase production of 
locomotives many times over, he summoned me to Karinhall. He had a 
suggestion to offer, which was that we build locomotives out of concrete, 
since we did not have enough steel available. Of course the concrete 
locomotives would not last as long as steel ones, he said; but to make 
up for that we would simply have to produce more of them. Quite how 
that was to be accomplished, he did not know; nevertheless, he clung 
for months to this weird idea for the sake of which I had squandered a 
two-hour drive and two hours of waiting time. And I had come home on 

225 ) Sins of Omission 

an empty stomach, for visitors in Karinhall were seldom offered a meal. 
That was the only concession the Goering household made to the needs 
of a total war economy. 

A week after Ganzenmuller's appointment, at which such heroic 
words had been spoken on the solution of the transportation crisis, I 
visited Hitler once more. In keeping with my view that in critical times 
the leadership must set a good example, I proposed to Hitler that the 
use of private railroad cars by government and party officials be discon- 
tinued for the time being. Naturally, I was not thinking of Hitler himself 
when I made this suggestion. But Hitler demurred; private cars were a 
necessity in the east, he said, because of the poor housing conditions. I 
corrected him: most of the cars were not being used in the east, I said, 
but inside the Reich. And I presented him with a long list of the prominent 
users of private cars. But I had no luck. 22 

I met regularly for lunch with General Friedrich Fromm in a 
chambre sSparee at Horcher's Restaurant. In the course of one of these 
meetings, at the end of April 1942, he remarked that our only chance of 
winning the war lay in developing a weapon with totally new effects. He 
said he had contacts with a group of scientists who were on the track 
of a weapon which could annihilate whole cities, perhaps throw the 
island of England out of the fight. Fromm proposed that we pay a joint 
visit to these men. It seemed to him important, he said, at least to have 
spoken with them. 

Dr. Albert Vogler, head of the largest German steel company and 
president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft, also called my attention at 
this time to the neglected field of nuclear research. He complained of 
the inadequate support fundamental research was receiving from the 
Ministry of Educa tion and Science, which naturally did not have much 
Influence during^wartSneT^TMay 6, 1942, 1 discussed this situation with 
Hitler and proposed that Goering be placed at the head of the Reich 
Research Council— thus emphasizing its importance. 23 A month later, on 
June 9, 1942, Goering was appointed to this post. 

Around the same time the three military representatives of armaments 
production, Milch, Fromm, and Witzell, met with me at Harnack House, 
the Berlin center of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft, to be briefed on the 
subject of German atomic research. Along with scientists whose names I 
no longer recall, the subsequent Nobel Prize winner s Otto Hahn and 
Werner Heisenberg were present. After a few demonstration lectures 
on the matter as awhole, Heisenberg reported on "Atom-smashing and the 7 
development of the uranium machine [sic] and the cyclotron." 24 J 
Heisenberg had bitter words to say about the Ministry of Education's 
neglect of nuclear research, about the lack of funds and materials, 
and the drafting of scientific men into the services. Excerpts from 


American technical journals suggested that plenty of technical and fi- 
nancial resources were available there for nuclear research. This meant 
that America probably had a head start in the matter, whereas Germany 
had been in the forefront of these studies only a few years ago. In view 
of the revolutionary possibilities of nuclear fission, dominance in this 
field was fraught with enormous consequences. 

After the lecture I asked Heisenberg how nuclear physics could be 
applied to the manufacture of atom bombs. His answer was by no means 
encouraging. He declared, to be sure, that the scientific solution had 
already been found and that theoretically nothing stood in the way of 
building such a bomb. But the technical prerequisites for production 
would take years to develop, two years at the earliest, even provided that 
the program was given maximum support. Difficulties were compounded, 
Heisenberg explained, by the fact that Europe possessed only one cyclo- 
tron, and that of minimal capacity. Moreover, it was located in Paris and 
because of the need for secrecy could not be used to full advantage. I 
proposed that with the powers at my disposal as Minister of Armaments 
we build cyclotrons as large as or larger than those in the United States. 
But Heisenberg said that because we lacked experience we would have to 
begin by building only a relatively small type. 

Nevertheless, General Fromm offered to release several hundred 
scientific assistants from the services, while I urged the scientists to in- 
form me of the measures, the sums of money, and the materials they 
would need to further nuclear research. A few weeks later they pre- 
sented their request: an appropriation of several hundred thousand 
marks and some small amounts of steel, nickel, and other priority 
metals. In addition, they asked for the building of a bunker, the erection 
of several barracks, and the pledge that their experiments would be given 
highest priority. Plans for building the first German cyclotron had already 
been approved. Rather put out by these modest requests in a matter of 
such crucial importance, I suggested that they take one or two million 
marks and correspondingly larger quantities of materials. But apparently 
more could not be utilized for the present, 25 and in any case I had been 
given the impression that the atom bomb could no longer have any bearing 
on the course of the war. 

I was familiar with Hitler s tendency to push fantastic projects by 
making senseless demands, so that on June 23, 1942, I reported to him 
only very briefly on the nuclear-fission conference and what we had de- 
cided to do. 26 Hitler received more detailed and more glowing reports 
from his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, who was friendly with Post 
Office Minister Ohnesorge. Goebbels, too, may have told him something 
about it. Ohnesorge was interested in nuclear research and was supporting 
—like the SS— an independent research apparatus under the direction of 
Manfred von Ardenne, a young physicist. It is significant that Hitler did 

227 ) Sirw of Omission 

not choose the direct route of obtaining information on this matter 
from responsible people but depended instead on unreliable and in- 
competent informants to give him a Sunday-supplement account. Here 
again was proof of his love for amateurishness and his lack of under- 
standing of fundamental scientific research. 

Hitler had sometimes spoken to me about the possibility of an atom 
bomb, but the idea quite obviously strained his intellectual capacity. 
He was also unable to grasp the revolutionary nature of nuclear physics. 
In the twenty-two hundred recorded points of my conferences with 
Hitler, nuclear fission comes up only once, and then is mentioned with 
extreme brevity. Hitler did sometimes comment on its prospects, but 
what I told him of my conference with the physicists confirmed his view 
that there was not much profit in the matter. Actually, Professor 
Heisenberg had not given any final answer to my question whether a 
successful nuclear fission could be kept under control with absolute 
certainty or might continue as a chain reaction. Hitler was plainly not I 
delighted with the possibility that the earth under his rule might be I 
transformed into a glowing star. Occasionally, however, he joked that the J 
scientists in their unworldly urge to lay bare all the secrets under heaven 
might some day set the globe on fire. But undoubtedly a good deal of time 
would pass before that came about, Hitler said; he would certainly 
not live to see it. 

I am sure that Hitler would not have hesitated for a moment to 
employ atom bombs against England. I remember his reaction to the 
final scene of a newsreel on the bombing of Warsaw in the autumn of 
1939* We were sitting with him and Goebbels in his Berlin salon watching 
the film. Clouds of smoke darkened the sky; dive bombers tilted and 
hurtled toward their goal; we could watch the flight of the released 
bombs, the pull-out of the planes and the cloud from the explosions 
expanding gigantically. The effect was enhanced by running the film in 
slow motion. Hitler was fascinated. The film ended with a montage 
showing a plane diving toward the outlines of the British Isles. A burst 
of flame followed, and the island flew into the air in tatters. Hitlers 
enthusiasm was unbounded. "That is what will happen to them!" he cried 
out, carried away. "That is how we will annihilate them!" 

On the suggestion of the nuclear physicists we scuttled the project 
to develop an atom bomb by the autumn of 1942, after I had again queried 
them about deadlines and been told that we could not count on anything 
for three or four years. The war would certainly have been decided long 
before then. Instead I authorized the development of an energy-producing 
uranium motor for propelling machinery. The navy was interested in that 
for its submarines. 

In the course of a visit to the Krupp Works I asked to be shown 
parts of our first cyclotron and asked the technician in charge whether 


we could not go on and build a considerably larger apparatus. But he 
confirmed what Professor Heisenberg had previously said: We lacked 
the technical experience. At Heidelberg in the summer of 1944, I was 
shown our first cyclotron splitting an atomic nucleus. To my questions, 
Professor Walther Bo the explained that this cyclotron would be useful 
for medicaT and biological research. I had to rest content with that. 

In the summer of 1943, wolframite imports from Portugal were cut 
off, which created a critical situation for the production of solid-core 
ammunition. I thereupon ordered the use of uranium cores for this type 
of ammunition. 27 My release of our uranium stocks of about twelve 
hundred metric tons showed that we no longer had any thought of 
producing atom bombs. 

Perhaps it would have proved possible to have the atom bomb ready 
for employment in 1945. But it would have meant mobilizing all our 
technical and financial resources to that end, as well as our scientific 
talent. It would have meant giving up all other projects, such as the 
development of the rocket weapons. From this point of view, too, 
Peenemiinde was not only our biggest but our most misguided project.* 
""" Our failure to pursue the possibilities of atomic warfare can be 
partly traced to ideological reasons. Hitler had great respect for Philipp 
Lenard, the physicist who had received the Nobel Prize in 1920 and was 
one of the few early adherents of Nazism among the ranks of the scientists. 
Lenard had instilled the idea in Hitler that the Jews were exerting a 
seditious influence in their concern with nuclear physics and the relativity 
theory.** To his table companions Hitler occasionally referred to nuclear 
physics as "Jewish physics"— citing Lenard as his authority for this. This 
view was taken up by Rosenberg. It thus becomes clearer why the 
Minister of Education was not inclined to support nuclear research. 

But even if Hitler had not had this prejudice against nuclear research 
and even if the state of our fundamental research in June 1942 could have 

* From 1937 to 1940 the army spent five hundred and fifty million marks on 
the development of a large rocket. But success was out of the question, for Hitler's 
principle of scattering responsibility meant that even scientific research teams were 
divided and often at odds with one another. According to the Office Journal, August 
17, 1944, not only the three branches of the armed forces but also other organizations, 
the SS, the postal system, and such, had separate research facilities. In the United 
States, on the other hand, all the atomic physicists— to take an example— were in one 

** According to L. W. Helwig, Personlichkeiten der Gegenwart (1940), Lenard 
inveighed against "relativity theories produced by alien minds." In his four-volume 
work, Die Deutsche Physik (1935), Helwig considered physics "cleansed of the out- 
growths which the by now well-known findings of race research have shown to be 
the exclusive products of the Jewish mind and which the German Volk must shun 
as racially incompatible with itself." 

229 ) Sins of Omission 

freed several billion instead of several million marks for the production 
of atom bombs, it would have been impossible— given the strain on our 
economic resources— to have provided the materials, priorities, and tech- 
nical workers corresponding to such an investment. For it was not only 
superior productive capacity that allowed the United States to undertake 
this gigantic project. The increasing air raids had long since created an 
armaments emergency in Germany which ruled out any such ambitious 
enterprise. At best, with extreme concentration of all our resources, we 
could have had a German atom bomb by 1947, but certainly we could 
not beat the Americans, whose bomb was ready by August 1945. And 
on the other hand the consumption of our latest reserves of chromium ore 
would have ended the war by January 1, 1946, at the very latest. 

Thus, from the start of my work as Minister of Armaments I 
discovered blunder after blunder, in all departments of the economy. 
Incongruously enough, Hitler himself used to say, during those war 
years: "The loser of this war will be the side that makes the greatest 
blunders." For Hitler, by a succession of wrong-headed decisions, helped 
to speed the end of a war already lost because of productive capacities— 
for example, by his confused planning of the air war against England, 
by the shortage of U-boats at the beginning of the war, and, in general, 
by his failure to develop an overall plan for the war. So that when many 
German memoirs comment on Hitlers decisive mistakes, the writers are 
completely right. But all that does not mean that the war could have 
been won. 


Commander in Chief Hitler 

Amateurishness was one of hitler's dominant traits, he had never 
learned a profession and basically had always remained an outsider to 
all fields of endeavor. Like many self-taught people, he had no idea 
what real specialized knowledge meant. Without any sense of the com- 
plexities of any great task, he boldly assumed one function after another. 
Unburdened by standard ideas, his quick intelligence sometimes con- 
ceived unusual measures which a specialist would not have hit on at 
all. The victories of the early years of the war can literally be attributed 
to Hitler's ignorance of the rules of the game and his layman's delight 
in decision making. Since the opposing side was trained to apply rules 
which Hitler's self-taught, autocratic mind did not know and did not use, 
he achieved surprises. These audacities, coupled with military superiority, 
were the basis of his early successes. But as soon as setbacks occurred he 
suffered shipwreck, like most untrained people. Then his ignorance of the 
rules of the game was revealed as another kind of incompetence; then 
his defects were no longer strengths. The greater the failures became, the 
more obstinately his incurable amateurishness came to the fore. The 
tendency to wild decisions had long been his forte; now it speeded his 

Every two or three weeks I traveled from Berlin to spend a few 
days in Hitler's East Prussian, and later in his Ukrainian, headquarters 
in order to have him decide the many technical questions of detail in 

( *2P ) 

231 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

which he was interested in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the 
army. Hitler knew all the types of ordnance and ammunition, including 
the calibers, the lengths of barrels, and the range of fire. He had 
the stocks of the most important items of armament in his head— as well 
as the monthly production figures. He was able to compare our quotas 
with our deliveries and draw conclusions. 

Hitler naive pleasure at being able to shine in the field of armaments, 
as previously in automobile manufacturing or in architecture, by reciting 
abstruse figures, made it plain that in this realm also he was working 
as an amateur. He seemed to be constantly endeavoring to show himself 
the equal of or even the superior of the experts. The real expert sensibly 
does not burden his mind with details that he can look up or leave to an 
assistant. Hitler, however, felt it necessary for his own self-esteem to 
parade his knowledge. But he also enjoyed doing it. 

He obtained his information from a large book in a red binding 
with broad yellow diagonal stripes. It was a catalogue, continually 
being brought up to date, of from thirty to fifty different types of am- 
munition and ordnance. He kept it on his night table. Sometimes he 
would order a servant to bring the book down when in the course of 
military conferences an assistant had mentioned a figure which Hitler 
instantly corrected. The book was opened and Hitler's data would be 
confirmed, without fail, every time, while the general would be shown 
to be in error. Hitler's memory for figures was the terror of his entourage. 

By tricks of this sort, Hitler could intimidate the majority of 
the officers who surrounded him. But on the other hand he felt uncertain 
when he was confronting an out-and-out technical expert. He did not 
insist on his opinion if a specialist objected. 

My predecessor, Todt, had sometimes gone to conferences with Hitler 
accompanied by two of his closest associates, Xaver Dorsch and Karl 
Saur; occasionally, he would bring one of his experts along. But he 
thought it important to deliver his reports personally and to involve 
his associates only on difficult points of detail. From the very first I 
did not even take the trouble to memorize figures which Hitler in any case 
kept in his head better than I. But knowing Hitler's respect for specialists, 
I would come to conferences flanked by all those experts who had the 
best mastery of the various points under discussion. 

I was thus saved from the nightmare of all "Fuehrer conferences"— 
the fear of being driven into a corner by a bombardment of figures and 
technical data. I consistently appeared at the Fuehrer's headquarters 
accompanied by approximately twenty civilians. Before long everybody 
in Restricted Area I, as the specially guarded area round the headquarters 
was known, was making fun of "Speer's invasions." Depending on the 
subjects to be discussed, from two to four of my experts were invited 
to the conferences which took place in the situation room of the 
headquarters, adjacent to Hitler's private apartment. It was a modestly 


furnished room about nine hundred square feet in area, the walls paneled 
in light-colored wood. The room was dominated by a heavy oak map 
table thirteen feet long next to a large window. In one corner was a 
smaller table surrounded by six armchairs. Here our conference group sat. 

During these conferences I remained in the background as far as 
possible. I opened them with a brief reference to the subject and then 
asked one of the experts present to state his views. Neither the environ- 
ment, with its innumerable generals, adjutants, guard areas, barriers, 
and passes, nor the aureole that this whole apparatus conferred upon 
Hitler, could intimidate these specialists. Their many years of success- 
ful practice of their professions gave them a clear sense of their rank 
and their responsibility. Sometimes the conversation developed into a 
heated discussion, for they quite often forgot whom they were addressing. 
Hitler took all this partly with humor, partly with respect. In this circle 
he seemed modest and treated my people with remarkable courtesy. With 
them, moreover, he refrained from his habit of killing opposition by 
long, exhaustive, and numbing speeches. He knew how to distinguish 
key matters from those of lesser importance, was adaptable, and sur- 
prised everyone by the swiftness with which he could choose among 
several possibilities and justify his choice. Effortlessly, he found his 
bearings when presented with technical processes, plans, and sketches. His 
questions showed that during the brief explanation period he could 
grasp the essentials of complicated subjects. However, there was a dis- 
advantage to this which he was unaware of: He arrived at the core of 
matters too easily and therefore could not understand them with real 

I could never predict what the result of our conferences would be. 
Sometimes he instantly approved a proposal whose prospects seemed 
exceedingly slight. Sometimes he obstinately refused to permit certain 
trivial measures which he himself had demanded only a short time before. 
Nevertheless, my system of circumventing Hitler's knowledge of detail 
by having experts confront him with even more detailed knowledge netted 
me more successes than failures. His other associates observed with 
astonishment and with some degree of envy that Hitler often changed 
his inind after hearing our counterproposals and would alter decisions 
which in the preceding military conferences he had called unalterable. 1 

Hitler's tecnnical horizon, however, just like his general ideas, his 
views on art, and his style of life, was limited by the First World War. 
His technical interests were narrowly restricted to the traditional weapons 
of the army and f ^o navy. In these areas he had continued to learn and 
steadily increased his knowledge, so that he frequently proposed con- 
vincing and usable innovations. But he had little feeling for such new 
developments as, for example, radar, the construction of an atom bomb, 
jet £ * l^i*s, anc* Ivets. On his rare flights in the newly developed Condor 

233 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

he showed concern that the mechanism which let down the retracted 
landing gear might not function. Warily, he declared that he preferred 
the old Junkers 52 with its rigid landing gear. 

Very often, directly after one of these conferences Hitler would 
lecture his military advisers on the technical knowledge he had just 
acquired. He loved to present such pieces of information with a casual 
air, as if the knowledge were his own. 

When the Russian T-34 appeared, Hitler was triumphant, for he 
could then point out that he had earlier demanded the kind of long- 
barreled gun it had. Even before my appointment as Minister of Arma- 
ments, I heard Hitler in the Chancellery garden, after a demonstration 
of the Panzer IV, inveighing against the obstinacy of the Army Ordnance 
Office which had turned down his idea for increasing the velocity of the 
missile by lengthening the barrel. The Ordnance Office had at the time 
presented counterarguments: The long barrel would overload the tank 
in front, since it was not built with such a gun in view. If so major a 
change were introduced, the whole design would be thrown out of 

Hitler would always bring up this incident whenever his ideas 
encountered opposition. "I was right at the time, and no one wanted to 
believe me. Now I am right again!" When the army felt the need for 
a tank which could outmaneuver the comparatively fast T-34 by greater 
speed, Hitler insisted that more would be gained by increasing the range 
of the guns and the weight of the armor. In this field, too, he had 
mastered the necessary figures and could recite penetration results and 
missile velocities by heart. He usually defended his theory by the example 
of warships: 

In a naval battle the side having the greater range can open fire at the 
greater distance. Even if it is only half a mile. If along with this he has 
stronger armor ... he must necessarily be superior. What are you after? 
The faster ship has only one advantage: to utilize its greater speed for re- 
treating. Do you mean to say a ship can possibly overcome heavier armor and 
superior artillery by greater speed? It's exactly the same for tanks. Your 
faster tank has to avoid meeting the heavier tank. 

My experts from industry were not direct participants in these 
discussions. Our business was to build the tanks according to the re- 
quirements set by the army, whether these were decided by Hitler, by the 
General Staff, or by the Army Ordnance Office. Questions of battle 
tactics were not our concern; such discussions were usually conducted by 
the army officers. In 1942, Hitler still encouraged such discussions. He was 
still listening quietly to objections and offering his arguments just as 
quietly. Nevertheless, his arguments carried special weight. 


Since the Tiger had originally been designed to weigh fifty tons but 
as a result of Hitler's demands had gone up to seventy-five tons, we 
decided to develop a new thirty-ton tank whose very name, Panther, was 
to signify greater agility. Though light in weight, its motor was to be 
the same as the Tiger s, which meant it could develop superior speed. 
But in the course of a year Hitler once again insisted on clapping so 
much armor on it, as well as larger guns, that it ultimately reached forty- 
eight tons, the original weight of the Tiger. 

In order to compensate for this strange transformation of a swift 
Panther into a slow Tiger, we made still another effort to produce a 
series of small, light, quick-moving tanks. 2 By way of pleasing and re- 
assuring Hitler, Porsche also undertook to design a superheavy tank which 
weighed over a hundred tons and hence could be built only in small 
numbers, one by one. For security purposes this new monster was as- 
signed the code name Mouse. In any case Porsche had personally taken 
over Hitler's bias for superheaviness and would occasionally bring the 
Fuehrer reports about parallel developments on the part of the enemy. 
Once, Hitler sent for General Buhle and demanded: "I have just heard 
that an enemy tank is coming along with armor far beyond anything we 
have. Have you any documentation of that? If it is true a new antitank 
gun must be developed instantly. The force of penetration must . . . the 
gun must be enlarged, or lengthened— to be brief, we must begin reacting 
immediately. Instantly." 3 

Thus, Hitlers decisions led to a multiplicity of parallel projects. They 
also led to more and more complicated problems of supply. One of his 
worst failings was that he simply did not understand the necessity for 
supplying the armies with sufficient spare parts.* General Guderian, the 
Inspector General of Tank Ordnance, frequently pointed out to me that 
if we could repair our tanks quickly, thanks to sufficient spare parts, we 
could have more available for battle, at a fraction of the cost, than by 
producing new ones. But Hitler insisted on the priority of new produc- 
tion, which would have had to be reduced by 20 percent if we made 
provision for such repairs. 

General Fromm as Chief of the Reserve Army was deeply concerned 
about this kind of poor planning. I took him with me to see Hitler 
several times so that he could present the arguments of the military. 
Fromm knew how to state a problem clearly; he had presence and had 
diplomatic tact. Sitting there, his sword pressed between his knees, hand 
on the hilt, he looked charged with energy; and to this day I believe 

* This disastrous tendency was evident as early as 1942: "Presented the Fuehrer 
with the monthly list of tank replacement parts and reported that despite the increase 
in production the demand is so high that to raise the production of spare parts we 
must decrease the production of new tanks." (Fiihrerprotokoll, May 6-7, 1942, Point 


2 35 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

that his great abilities might have prevented many a blunder at the Fueh- 
rer's headquarters. After several conferences, in fact, his influence in- 
creased. But immediately opposition appeared, both on the part of Keitel, 
who saw his position threatened, and on the part of Goebbels, who tried to 
persuade Hitler that Fromm had a dangerous political record. Finally, 
Hitler clashed with Fromm over a question of reserve supplies. Curtly, 
he let me know that I was no longer to bring Fromm with me. 

Many of my conferences with Hitler were concerned with establish- 
ing the armaments programs for the army. Hitlers point of view was: The 
more I demand, the more I receive. And to my astonishment programs 
which industrial experts considered impossible to carry out were in the 
end actually surpassed. Hitler s authority liberated reserves that nobody 
had taken into his calculations. From 1944 on, however, his programs 
became totally unrealistic. Our efforts to push these through in the 
factories were self-defeating. 

It often seemed to me that Hitler used these prolonged conferences 
on armaments and war production as an escape from his military re- 
sponsibilities. He himself admitted to me that he found in them a relaxa- 
tion similar to our former conferences on architecture. Even in crisis 
situations he devoted many hours to such discussions, sometimes refusing 
to interrupt them even when his field marshals or ministers urgently 
wanted to speak with him. 

Our technical conferences were usually combined with a demonstra- 
tion of new weapons which took place in a nearby field. A few moments 
before we would have been sitting intimately with Hitler, but now 
everybody had to line up in rank and file, Field Marshal Keitel, chief of 
the OKW (High Command of the Armed Forces), on the right. Obviously, 
Hitler laid stress on the ceremonial aspect of the occasion, adding a 
further note of formality by entering his official limousine to cover the 
few hundred yards to the field. I took my place in the back seat. Hitler 
would then step out, and Keitel would report the presence of the waiting 
line of generals and technicians. 

This ritual concluded, the group promptly broke up. Hitler looked 
into details, clambered over the vehicles on portable steps held in readi- 
ness for him, and continued his discussions with the specialists. Often 
Hitler and I would make appreciative remarks about the weapons, such 
as: 'What an elegant barrel," or, 'What a fine shape this tank has!"— a 
ludicrous relapse into the terminology of our joint inspections of architec- 
tural models. 

In the course of one such inspection, Keitel mistook a 7.5 centimeter 
antitank gun for a light field howitzer. Hitler passed over the mistake 
at the time but had his joke on our ride back: "Did you hear that? Keitel 
and the antitank gun? Arid he's a general of the artillery!" 

Another time the air force had lined up on a nearby airfield the 


multiple variants and types in its production program for Hitler s inspec- 
tion. Goering had himself reserved the right to explain the planes to 
Hitler. His staff thereupon provided him with a cram sheet, in the order 
of the models on display, giving their names, flight characteristics, and 
other technical data. One type had not been brought up in time, and 
Goering had not been informed. From that point on he blandly mis- 
identified everything, for he adhered strictly to his list. Hitler instantly 
perceived the error but gave no sign. 

At the end of June 1942 1 read in the newspapers, just like everyone 
else, that a great new offensive in the east had begun. There was a mood 
of exuberance at headquarters. Every evening Hitlers chief adjutant, 
Schmundt, traced the onrush of the troops on a wall map, for the edifica- 
tion of civilians at headquarters. Hitler was triumphant. Once again he 
had proved that he was right and the generals wrong— for they had 
advised against an offensive and called for defensive tactics, occasionally 
straightening out the front. Even General Fromm had brightened up, 
although at the beginning of the operation he had commented to me that 
any such offensive was a luxury in the "poor mans" situation we were in. 

The left wing east of Kiev grew longer and longer. The troops were 
approaching Stalingrad. Feats were performed to maintain emergency 
railroad traffic in the newly won territories and thus keep supplies moving. 

Barely three weeks after the beginning of the successful offensive 
Hitler moved to an advanced headquarters near the Ukrainian city of 
Vinnitsa. Since Russian air activity was as good as nonexistent and the 
west this time was too far away, even given Hitler s anxieties, he for 
once did not demand the building of any special air-raid shelters. Instead 
of the usual concrete buildings a pleasant-looking cluster of blockhouses 
scattered about a forest was established. 

Whenever I had to fly to the new headquarters, I used what free 
time I had to drive around the country. Once I drove to Kiev. Immediately 
after the October Revolution avant-gardists like Le Corbusier, May, or 
El Lissitzky had influenced modern Russian architecture. But under 
Stalin at the end of the twenties it had all swung back to a conservative 
and classicist style. The conference building in Kiev, for example, could 
have been designed by a good pupil of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. I toyed 
with the notion of searching out the architect and employing him in Ger- 
many. A classicist stadium in Kiev was adorned with statues of athletes in 
the fashion of classical antiquity— but touchingly, the figures were clad in 
bathing suits. 

I found one of the most famous churches of Kiev a heap of rubble. 
A Soviet powder magazine had blown up inside it, I was told. Later, I 
learned from Goebbels that the church had been blown up deliberately 
on orders of Erich Koch, Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine; the idea 

*37 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

had been to destroy this symbol of Ukrainian national pride. Goebbels 
told the story with displeasure; he was horrified by the brutal course 
being pursued in occupied sectors of the Soviet Union. In fact the Ukraine 
at that time was still so peaceable that I could drive through the extensive 
forests without an escort. Half a year later, thanks to the twisted policy 
of the eastern commissioners, the whole area was infested with partisans. 
Other drives took me to the industrial center of Dnepropetrovsk. 
What most impressed me was a university complex under construction. Its 
facilities went far beyond anything in Germany and left no doubt of the 
Soviet Unions determination to become a technical power of the first 
rank. I also visited the power plant of Saporoshe, blown up by the Rus- 
sians. A large construction crew closed the blast hole in the dam, but 
they also had to install new turbines. Before retreating, the Russians 
had thrown the oil switch, interrupting the oiling of their turbines 
while they were running at full speed. The machines ran hot and finally 
ground themselves into a useless tangle of parts— a feat which could be 
accomplished by a single man pulling a lever. The vision of that later 
gave me many a sleepless hour when I learned of Hitlers intention to 
make Germany a wasteland. 

Even at the Fuehrer's headquarters, Hitler kept to his habit of 
taking his meals in the midst of his close associates. But whereas at the 
Chancellery party uniforms had dominated the scene, he was now sur- 
rounded by generals and officers of his staff. In contrast to the luxuriously 
furnished dining hall in the Chancellery, this dining room looked rather 
like the railroad station restaurant in a small town. Pine boarding formed 
the walls, and the windows were those of a standardized barracks. There 
was a long table for about twenty persons, flanked by plain chairs. Hitler's 
seat was on the window side in the middle of the long table; Keitel sat 
facing him, while the places of honor on either side of Hitler were re- 
served for the ever-changing visitors. As in past days in Berlin, Hitler 
talked long-windedly about his favorite subjects, while his dinner guests 
were reduced to silent listeners. It was apparent, however, that Hitler 
made an effort in the presence of these men, with whom he was not 
especially intimate and who moreover were his superiors by birth and 
education, to present his thoughts in as impressive a manner as possible.* 
Thus the level of the table talk in the Fuehrer's headquarters differed from 
that at the Chancellery. It was considerably higher. 

During the first weeks of the offensive we had discussed the rapid 

* Tischgesprache (Table Talk) published by Picker gives a good idea of Hitler's 
topics of conversation. But we must remember that this collection includes only those 
passages in Hitler's monologues— they took up one to two hours every day— which 
struck Picker as significant. Complete transcripts would reinforce the sense of stifling 


progress of the troops in the South Russian plains in an exultant mood. 
By contrast, after two months the faces of the diners grew increasingly 
doleful, and Hitler too began to lose his self-assurance. 

Our troops had, it is true, taken the oil fields of Maikop. The 
leading tank columns were already fighting along the Terek and pushing 
on, over a roadless steppe near Astrakhan toward the southern Volga. But 
this advance was no longer maintaining the pace of the first weeks. Sup- 
plies could no longer keep up; the spare parts the tanks carried with them 
had long since been consumed, so that the fighting wedge was steadily 
thinning out. Moreover, our monthly armaments production lagged far 
behind the demands of an offensive over such enormous spaces. At that 
time we were manufacturing only a third of the tanks and a fourth of 
the artillery we were to be producing in 1944. Aside from that, normal 
wear and tear was extremely high over such distances. The tank testing 
station at Kummersdorf operated on the assumption that the treads or the 
motor of a heavy tank would need repairs after four to five hundred miles. 

Hitler realized none of this. With the enemy supposedly too weak 
to offer any resistance, he wanted the exhausted German troops to thrust 
on to the southern side of the Caucasus, toward Georgia. He therefore 
detached considerable forces from the already weakened wedge and di- 
rected them to advance beyond Maikop toward Sochi. These contingents 
were supposed to reach Sukhumi by way of the narrow coastal road. This 
was where the main blow was to be delivered; he assumed that the ter- 
ritory north of the Caucasus would fall easily to him in any case. 

But the units were done in. They could no longer push forward, 
however imperiously Hitler ordered it. In the situation conferences 
Hitler was shown aerial photos of the impenetrable walnut forests out- 
side Sochi. Chief of Staff Haider warned Hitler that the Russians could 
easily render the coastal road impassable for a long time by blasting the 
steep slopes. In any case, he argued, the road was too narrow for the 
advance of large troop units. But Hitler remained unimpressed: 

These difficulties can be overcome as all difficulties can be overcome! 
First we must conquer the road. Then the way is open to the plains south 
of the Caucasus. There we can deploy our armies freely and set up 
supply camps. Then, in one or two years, we'll start an offensive into the 
underbelly of the British Empire. With a minimum of effort we can liberate 
Persia and Iraq. The Indians will hail our divisions enthusiastically. 

When in 1944 we were combing through the printing trade for un- 
necessary assignments, we came upon a plant in Leipzig that was turning 
out Persian maps and language guides for the OKW in large quantities. 
The contract had been let and then forgotten. 

Even a layman like myself could tell that the offensive had rim it- 

2 39 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

self into the ground. Then the report arrived that a detachment of German 
mountain troops had taken Mount Elbrus, nearly nineteen thousand feet 
high, the highest mountain in the Caucasus and surrounded by broad 
fields of glaciers. They had planted the German war flag there. To be 
sure, this was a superfluous action, certainly on the smallest scale,* which 
could be understood only as an adventure by a group of enthusiastic 
mountain climbers. All of us could sympathize with the impulse behind 
this act, but otherwise it seemed to us completely unimportant. I often 
saw Hitler furious but seldom did his anger erupt from him as it did 
when this report came in. For hours he raged as if his entire plan of 
campaign had been ruined by this bit of sport. Days later he went on 
railing to all and sundry about "these crazy mountain climbers" who "be- 
long before a court-martial." There they were pursuing their idiotic hob- 
bies in the midst of a war, he exclaimed indignantly, occupying an idiotic 
peak even though he had commanded that all efforts must be concentrated 
upon Sukhumi. Here was a clear example of the way his orders were 
being obeyed. 

Urgent business called me back to Berlin. A few days later the 
commander of the army group operating in the Caucasus was relieved, 
although Jodl vigorously defended him. When I returned to headquarters 
again about two weeks later, I found that Hitler had quarreled with 
Keitel, Jodl, and Haider. He refused to shake hands with them or to dine 
with them at the common table. From then on until the end of the war 
he had his meals served in his bunker room, only occasionally inviting 
a few select persons to join him. The close relations that Hitler had with 
his military associates were shattered for good. 

Was the cause merely the failure of the offensive on which he had 
placed so many hopes, or did he for the first time have an inkling that 
this was the turning point? The fact that from then on he stayed away 
from the officers' table may have been due to the fact that he would 
no longer be sitting among them as the invincible leader in peace and 
war, but as a man whose plans had come to grief. Moreover, he must by 
now have run through the stock of general ideas with which he had re- 
galed this group. Perhaps he also felt that his magic was failing him for 
the first time. 

For several weeks Keitel skulked about mournfully and displayed 
great devotion, so that Hitler soon began treating him somewhat more 
amicably. His relations with Jodl— who had characteristically remained 
impassive through it all— likewise straightened out. But General Haider, 

* One mountain division tried to push through to Tiflis by way of the Caucasian 
mountain passes, following the old military road from Grozny. Hitler considered this 
road a poor one to use for sending reinforcements, since it was blocked for months 
at a time by snow and avalanches. One group from the mountain division had gone 
off to take Mount Elbrus. 


the army chief of staff, had to go. He was a quiet, laconic man who was 
probably always thrown off by Hitler s vulgar dynamism and thus gave 
a rather hapless impression. His successor, Kurt Zeitzler, was just the 
opposite: a straighforward, insensitive person who made his reports in a 
loud voice. He was not the type of military man given to independent 
thinking and no doubt represented the kind of Chief of Staff that Hitler 
wanted: a reliable "assistant" who, as Hitler was fond of saying, "doesn't 
go off and brood on my orders, but energetically sees to carrying them 
out." With that in mind, too, Hitler probably did not pick him from the 
ranks of the higher generals. Zeitzler had up to that time held a sub- 
ordinate place in the army hierarchy; he was promoted two grades at once. 

After the appointment of the new Chief of Staff, Hitler permitted 
me— the only civilian for the time being*— to participate in the situation 
conferences. I could take this as a special proof of his satisfaction with 
me— for which he had every reason, given the constantly rising produc- 
tion figures. But this favor would probably not have been shown me if 
he had felt threatened by a loss of prestige in my presence because of 
opposition, vehement debates, and disputes. The storm had calmed 
down again; Hitler had regained his standing 

Every day around noon the grand situation conference took place. 
It lasted two to three hours. Hitler was the only one who was seated— 
on a plain armchair with a rush seat. The other participants stood around 
the map table: his adjutants, staff officers of the OKW and the Army 
General Staff, and Hitler s liaison officers to the air force, the navy, 
the Waffen-SS, and Himmler. On the whole they were rather young 
men with likable faces, most of them holding the rank of colonel or 
major. Keitel, Jodl, and Zeitzler stood casually amongst them. Some- 
times Goering came too. As a gesture of special distinction and perhaps 
in consideration of his corpulence, Hitler had an upholstered stool 
brought in for the Reich Marshal, on which he sat beside Hitler. 

Desk lamps with long, swinging arms illuminated the maps. First 
the eastern theater was discussed. Three or four strategic maps, pasted 
together, each of them about five by eight feet, were laid out on the 
long table in front of Hitler. The discussion began with the northern part 
of the eastern theater of war. Every detail of the events of the previous 
day was entered on the maps, every advance, even patrols— and almost 
every entry was explained by the Chief of Staff. Bit by bit the maps 
were pushed farther up the table, so that Hitler always had a compre- 
hensible segment within reading distance. Longer discussion was de- 
voted to the more important events, Hitler noting every change from the 

* Several months passed before Bormann and Ribbentrop received permission 
to attend. 

241 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

status of the previous day. Just the daily preparation for this conference 
was a tremendous burden on the time of the Chief of Staff and his 
officers, who no doubt had more important things to do. As a layman 
I was astonished at the way Hitler in the course of hearing the reports 
made deployments, pushed divisions back and forth, or dealt with 
petty details. 

At least during 1942 he received the news of grave setbacks calmly. 
Or perhaps this was already the beginning of the apathy he later dis- 
played. Outwardly, at any rate, he showed no sign of despair. He 
seemed determined to present the image of the superior war lord whose 
composure nothing could shake. Frequently he stressed that his ex- 
periences in the trenches of the First World War had given him more 
insight into many details of military policy than all his military advisers 
had acquired in the General Staff school. This may well have been 
true, for certain restricted areas. In the opinion of many army officers, 
however, his very "trench perspective" had given him a false picture 
of the process of leadership. In this regard his knowledge of detail, the 
detailed knowledge of a corporal, rather hampered him. General 
Fromm commented in his laconic fashion that a civilian as commander 
in chief might have been better than, of all people, a corporal— more- 
over one who had never fought in the east and therefore could not 
conceive the special problems of warfare in this part of the world. 

Hitler practiced a policy of patchwork of the pettiest sort. More- 
over, he labored under the handicap that the nature of any given ter- 
rain cannot really be gathered adequately from maps. In the early 
summer of 1942 he personally ordered the first six of our Tiger tanks 
to be thrown into battle. As always, when a new weapon was ready, he 
expected it to turn the tide of battle. He regaled us with vivid de- 
scriptions of how the Soviet 7.7 centimeter antitank guns, which pene- 
trated our Panzer IV front armor even at sizable distances, would fire 
shot after shot in vain, and how finally the Tiger would roll over the 
antitank gun nests. His staff remonstrated that the terrain he had chosen 
made tactical deployment of the tanks impossible because of the 
marshy subsurface on both sides of the road. Hitler dismissed these 
objections, not sharply, but with a superior air. And so the first Tiger 
assault started. Everybody was tensely awaiting the results, and I was 
rather anxious, wondering whether all would go well technically. There 
was no opportunity for a technical dress rehearsal. The Russians calmly 
let the tanks roll past an antitank gun position, then fired direct hits at 
the first and last Tiger. The remaining four thereupon could move 
neither forward nor backward, nor could they take evasive action to 
the side because of the swamps, and soon they were also finished off. 
Hitler silently passed over the debacle; he never referred to it again. 

The situation in the western theater of war, at that time still cen- 


tered in Africa, was taken up next by General Jodl. Here too Hitler 
tended to intervene in every detail. He was bitterly annoyed with 
Rommel, who would often give extremely unclear bulletins on the day's 
movements. In other words, he "veiled" them from headquarters, some- 
times for days, only to report an entirely changed situation. Hitler liked 
Rommel personally but could ill brook this sort of conduct. 

Properly speaking, Jodl as chief of the Wehrmacht Operations 
Staff ought to have coordinated the actions in the various theaters of 
war. But Hitler had claimed this task for himself, although he did not 
actually perform it. Basically, Jodl had no clearly defined field of ac- 
tivity. But in order to have something to do, his staff assumed inde- 
pendent leadership in certain theaters, so that in the end two rival gen- 
eral staffs existed for the army. Hitler acted as arbitrator between them 
—in keeping with that principle of divisiveness he favored. The more 
critical the situation became, the more vehemently the two rival staffs 
fought over the shifting of divisions from east to west and vice versa. 

Once the "army situation ,, had been discussed, reports of the events 
of the last twenty-four hours in the "air situation ' and the "naval situa- 
tion"— as these areas were designated— were reviewed, usually by the 
liaison officer or the adjutant for this branch of the services, rarely by 
the commander himself. Attacks on England, the bombings of German 
cities, were reported briefly, as were the latest accomplishments in sub- 
marine warfare. On questions of air and naval warfare Hitler left his 
commanders in chief the broadest freedom of choice. At least at that 
period he rarely intervened, and then only in an advisory capacity. 

Toward the end of the conference Keitel presented Hitler with 
various documents for signature. Usually these were the partly sneered- 
at, partly dreaded "covering orders"— in other words, orders intended 
to cover him or someone else against subsequent reprimands from 
Hitler. At the time I called this procedure an outrageous abuse of 
Hitler's signature, since it often meant that altogether incompatible 
ideas and plans were thereby given the form of orders, creating a con- 
fusing and impenetrable thicket of contradictions. 

The presence of so large a company in the relatively small space 
made the air stale, which quickly tired me as well as most of the others. 
A ventilation system had been installed, but Hitler thought it pro- 
duced "excessive pressure" which resulted in headaches and a feeling 
of giddiness. Therefore it was switched on only before and after the 
situation conference. Even in the finest weather the window usually 
remained closed, and even by day the curtains were drawn. These con- 
ditions created an extremely sultry atmosphere. 

I had expected respectful silence during these situation conferences 
and was therefore surprised that the officers who did not happen to be 

243 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

participating in a report talked together freely, though in low voices. 
Frequently, the officers, showing no further consideration for Hitler's 
presence, would take seats in the group of chairs at the back of the 
room. The many marginal conversations created a constant murmur 
that would have made me nervous. But it disturbed Hitler only when 
the side conversations grew too excited and too loud. When he raised 
his head disapprovingly, however, the noise immediately subsided. 

From about the autumn of 1942 on, it became almost impossible 
to oppose Hitler on important questions, unless one went about it very 
cautiously. Outsiders had a better chance to present objections; Hitler 
would not stand for them from the group which constituted his daily 
entourage. Whenever he himself was trying to convince someone, he 
went far afield and tried as long as possible to keep the discussion on 
the plane of generalities. He would hardly allow the other person to 
say a word. If a controversial point arose in the course of the discus- 
sion, Hitler usually evaded it skillfully, postponing clarification of it to 
a subsequent conference. He proceeded on the assumption that military 
men were shy about giving in on points in front of their staff officers. 
Probably he also expected his aura and his persuasiveness to operate 
better in a face-to-face discussion with an individual. Both these ele- 
ments came across poorly over the telephone. Probably that was why 
Hitler always showed a distinct dislike for conducting important argu- 
ments on the telephone. 

In the late evening hours there was a further situation conference 
in which a younger General Staff officer reported on the developments 
of the last few hours. Hitler would sit alone with the officer. If I had 
dined with Hitler, he sometimes took me along to these reports. Un- 
doubtedly he found these occasions far more relaxing than the main 
situation conference, and the atmosphere and tone would be considerably 
less formal. 

Hitler s entourage certainly bore a measure of the blame for his 
growing belief in his superhuman abilities. Early in the game, Field 
Marshal Blomberg, Hitler's first and last Minister of War, had been 
overfond of praising Hitler's surpassing strategic genius. Even a more 
restrained and modest personality than Hitler ever was would have 
been in danger of losing all standards of self-criticism under such a 
constant torrent of applause. 

In keeping with his character, Hitler gladly sought advice from 
persons who saw the situation even more optimistically and delusively 
than he himself. Keitel was often one of those. When the majority of the 
officers would greet Hitler's decisions with marked silence, Keitel would 
frequently feel called upon to speak up in favor of the measure. Con- 
stantly in Hitler's presence, he had completely succumbed to his influ- 


ence. From an honorable, solidly respectable general he had developed 
in the course of years into a servile flatterer with all the wrong instincts. 
Basically, Keitel hated his own weakness; but the hopelessness of any dis- 
pute with Hitler had ultimately brought him to the point of not even 
trying to form his own opinion. If, however, he had offered resistance 
and stubbornly insisted on a view of his own, he would merely have 
been replaced by another Keitel. 

In 1943-44 when Schmundt, Hitler s chief adjutant and army per- 
sonnel chief, tried, along with many others, to replace Keitel by the 
much more vigorous Field Marshal Kesselring, Hitler said that he could 
not do without Keitel because the man was loyal as a dog" to him. 
Perhaps Keitel embodied most precisely the type of person Hitler 
needed in his entourage. 

General Jodl, too, rarely contradicted Hitler openly. He proceeded 
diplomatically. Usually he did not express his thoughts at once, thus 
skirting difficult situations. Later he would persuade Hitler to yield, 
or even to reverse decisions already taken. His occasional deprecatory 
remarks about Hitler showed that he had preserved a relatively un- 
biased view. 

Keitel's subordinates, such as, for example, his deputy General 
Warlimont, could not be more courageous than their superior; for Keitel 
would not stand up for them against Hitler s ire. Occasionally they tried 
to counter the effects of obviously absurd orders by adding little clauses 
that Hitler did not understand. Under the leadership of a man so sub- 
missive and irresolute as Keitel, the High Command often had to look 
for all sorts of crooked paths in order to arrive at its goals. 

The subjugation of the generals might also be laid in part to their 
state of permanent fatigue. Hitler s work routine intersected the normal 
daily routine of the High Command. As a result, the generals often 
went without regular sleep. Such purely physical strains probably affect 
events more than is generally assumed, especially when high perform- 
ance over a protracted span of time is required. In private associations, 
too, Keitel and Jodl gave the impression of being exhausted, burned 
out. In order to break through this ring of hollow men, I hoped to place 
—in addition to Fromm— my friend Field Marshal Milch within the 
Fuehrers headquarters. I had taken him with me to headquarters 
several times, supposedly in order to report on activities of Central 
Planning. A few times all went well, and Milch was gaining ground 
with his plan of concentrating on a fighter-plane program instead of 
the proposed fleet of big bombers. But then Goering forbade him to 
pay any further visits to headquarters. 

Goering too gave the impression of a worn-out man at the end of 
1942, when I sat with him in the pavilion that had been built especially 
for his brief stays at headquarters. Goering still had comfortable chairs, 

2 45 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

not the spartan furnishings of Hitlers bunker office. Depressed, the 
Reich Marshal said: "We will have reason to be glad if Germany can 
keep the boundaries of 1933 && er the war." He quickly tried to cover 
up this remark by adding a few confident banalities, but I had the im- 
pression that in spite of the bluffness he put on, he saw defeat coming 

After his arrival at the Fuehrers headquarters, Goering usually 
withdrew to his pavilion for a few minutes while General Bodenschatz, 
his liaison officer to Hitler, left the situation conference in order to brief 
Goering by telephone, so we suspected, on certain disputed questions. 
Fifteen minutes later, Goering would enter the situation conference. Of his 
own accord he would emphatically advocate exactly the viewpoint that 
Hitler wished to put across against the opposition of his generals. Hitler 
would then look around at his entourage: "You see, the Reich Marshal 
holds exactly the same opinion as I do." 

On the afternoon of November 7, 1942, I accompanied Hitler to 
Munich in his special train. These journeys were a favorable occasion 
to draw Hitler into the necessary but time-consuming consideration of 
general armaments questions. This special train was equipped with 
radio, teletype machines, and a telephone switchboard. Jodl and some 
members of the General Staff had joined Hitler. 

The atmosphere was tense. We were already many hours late, for 
at every sizable station a prolonged stop was made in order to connect 
the telephone cable with the railroad telegraph system, so we could get 
the latest reports. From early morning on a mighty armada of trans- 
ports, accompanied by large naval units, had been passing through the 
Strait of Gibralter into the Mediterranean. 

In earlier years Hitler had made a habit of showing himself at the 
window of his special train whenever it stopped. Now these encoun- 
ters with the outside world seemed undesirable to him; instead, the 
shades on the station side of the train would be lowered. Late in the 
evening we sat with Hitler in his rosewood-paneled dining car. The table 
was elegantly set with silver flatware, cut glass, good china, and flower ar- 
rangements. As we began our ample meal, none of us at first saw that a 
freight train was stopped on the adjacent track. From the cattle car 
bedraggled, starved, and in some cases wounded German soldiers, just 
returning from the east, stared at the diners. With a start, Hitler no- 
ticed the somber scene two yards from his window. Without as much 
as a gesture of greeting in their direction, he peremptorily ordered his 
servant to draw the shades. This, then, in the second half of the war, 
was how Hitler handled a meeting with ordinary front-line soldiers 
such as he himself had once been. 

At every station along the way the number of reported naval units 


rose. An enterprise of vast proportions was obviously afoot. Finally the 
units passed through the Strait. All the ships reported by our air recon- 
naissance were now moving eastward in the Mediterranean. "This is 
the largest landing operation that has ever taken place in the history 
of the world," Hitler declared in a tone of respect, perhaps taking pride 
that he was the cause of enterprises of such magnitude. Until the fol- 
lowing morning the landing fleet remained north of the Moroccan and 
Algerian coast. 

In the course of the night Hitler proposed several different explan- 
ations for this mysterious behavior. He thought the most probable thing 
was that the enemy was undertaking a great supply operation to reinforce 
the offensive against the hard-pressed Africa Corps. The naval units were 
keeping together in this way, he concluded, in order to advance through 
the narrow strait between Sicily and Africa under cover of darkness, 
safe from German air attacks. Or else, and this second version corres- 
ponded more to his feeling for perilous military operations: "The 
enemy will land in central Italy tonight. There he would meet with no 
resistance at all. There are no German troops there, and the Italians 
will run away. That way they can cut northern Italy off from the south. 
What will become of Rommel in that case? He would be lost in a 
short time. He has no reserves and supplies will no longer come 

Hitler intoxicated himself with thoughts of far-reaching operations, 
of a kind he had long been missing. He more and more put himself 
into the position of the enemy: "I would occupy Rome at once and form 
a new Italian government. Or, and this would be the third possibility, I 
would use this great fleet to land in southern France. We have always 
been too gentle. And now this is what we get for itl No fortifications 
and no German troops at all down there. A great mistake that we have 
nothing garrisoned there. The Petain government wont put up a bit 
of resistance, of course." From moment to moment he seemed to for- 
get that these forces were gathering against himself. 

Hitler's guesses were wide of the mark. It would never have oc- 
curred to him not to associate such a landing operation with a coup. To 
put the troops on land in safe positions from which they could methodi- 
cally spread out, to take no unnecessary risks— that was a strategy alien 
to his nature. But that night he clearly realized one thing: Now the second 
front was beginning to be a reality. 

By the next day the Allied troops were pouring ashore in North 
Africa. Nevertheless, Hitler went ahead with his speech in commemora- 
tion of his failed putsch of 1923. 1 still remember how shocked we all were 
when, instead of at least referring to the gravity of the situation and 
calling for a mustering of energies, he adopted his usual "victory-is- 

247 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

certain" tone: "They've already become idiots," he digressed about our 
enemy, whose operations had only yesterday called forth his homage, 
"if they think that they can ever shatter Germany. . . . We will not fall; 
consequently, the others will fall." 

In the late autumn of 1942, Hitler triumphantly stated in the course 
of a situation conference: "Now the Russians are sending their cadets 
into the struggle. 4 That's the surest proof they have reached the end. 
A country sacrifices the next generation of officers only when it has 
nothing left." 

A few weeks later, on November 19, 1942, the first reports of the 
great Russian winter offensive reached Hitler, who had withdrawn to 
Obersalzberg days before. The offensive, which nine weeks later was 
to lead to the capitulation of Stalingrad, 5 began near Serafinov. There, 
after violent artillery preparations, strong Soviet forces had broken 
through the positions of Rumanian divisions. Hitler tried at first to 
explain and belittle this disaster by making slurring remarks on the 
fighting qualities of his allies. But shortly afterward the Soviet troops 
began overwhelming German divisions as well. The front was begin- 
ning to crumble. 

Hitler paced back and forth in the great hall of the Berghof. 

Our generals are making their old mistakes again. They always over- 
estimate the strength of the Russians. According to all the front-line reports, 
the enemy's human material is no longer sufficient. They are weakened; they 
have lost far too much blood. But of course nobody wants to accept such 
reports. Besides, how badly Russian officers are trained! No offensive can 
be organized with such officers. We know what it takes! In the short or 
long run the Russians will simply come to a halt. They'll run down. Mean- 
while we shall throw in a few fresh divisions; that will put things right. 

In the peaceful atmosphere of the Berghof he simply did not understand 
what was brewing. But three days later, when the bad news kept pouring 
in, he rushed back to East Prussia. 

A few days afterward at Rastenburg the strategic map showed the 
area from Voronezh to Stalingrad covered with red arrows across a 
front a hundred and twenty-five miles wide. These represented the thrust 
of the Soviet troops. Among all the arrows were small blue circles, 
pockets of resistance by the remnants of German and allied divisions. 
Stalingrad was already surrounded by red rings. Disturbed, Hitler now 
commanded units to be detached from all other sectors of the front and 
from the occupied territories and dispatched in all haste to the southern 
sector. No operational reserve was available, although General Zeitzler 


had pointed out long before the emergency that each of the divisions in 
southern Russia had to defend a frontal sector of unusual length* and 
would not be able to cope with a vigorous assault by Soviet troops. 

Stalingrad was encircled. Zeitzler, his face flushed and haggard 
from lack of sleep, insisted that the Sixth Army must break out to the 
west. He deluged Hitler with data on all that the army lacked, both as 
regards to rations and fuel, so that it had become impossible to pro- 
vide warm meals for the soldiers exposed to fierce cold in the snow- 
swept fields or the scanty shelter of ruins. Hitler remained calm, un- 
moved and deliberate, as if bent on showing that Zeitzlers agitation 
was a psychotic reaction in the face of danger. "The counterattack from 
the south that I have ordered will soon relieve Stalingrad. That will 
recoup the situation. We have been in such positions often before, you 
know. In the end we always had the problem in hand again." He gave 
orders for supply trains to be dispatched right behind the troops de- 
ploying for the counteroffensive, so that as soon as Stalingrad was re- 
lieved something could at once be done about alleviating the plight of 
the soldiers. Zeitzler disagreed, and Hitler let him talk without inter- 
rupting. The forces provided for the counterattack were too weak, 
Zeitzler said. But if they could unite successfully with a Sixth Army 
that had broken out to the west, they would then be able to establish 
new positions farther to the south. Hitler offered counterarguments, but 
Zeitzler held to his view. Finally, after the discussion had gone on for 
more than half an hour, Hitlers patience snapped: "Stalingrad simply 
must be held. It must be; it is a key position. By breaking traffic on the 
Volga at that spot, we cause the Russians the greatest difficulties. How 
are they going to transport their grain from southern Russia to the 
north?" That did not sound convincing; I had the feeling, rather, that 
Stalingrad was a symbol for him. But for the time being the discussion 
ended after this dispute. 

Next day the situation had worsened. Zeitzlers pleas had grown even 
more urgent; the atmosphere in the situation conference was somber; 
and even Hitler looked exhausted and downcast. Once he too spoke of 
a breakout. Once more he asked for figures on how many tons of sup- 
plies were needed daily to maintain the fighting strength of over two 
hundred thousand soldiers. 

Twenty-four hours later the fate of the encircled army was finally 
sealed. For Goering appeared in the situation room, brisk and beaming 
like an operetta tenor who is supposed to portray a victorious Reich 
Marshal. Depressed, with a beseeching note in his voice, Hitler asked 
him: "What about supplying Stalingrad by air?" Goering snapped to 

* Establishing the new line of defense, Orel-Stalingrad-Terek River-Maikop, 
meant that the troops had to defend a line 2.3 times longer than the Orel-Black Sea 
position taken in the spring 

249 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

attention and declared solemnly: "My leader! I personally guarantee 
the supplying of Stalingrad by air. You can rely on that." As I later 
heard from Milch, the Air Force General Staff had in fact calculated 
that supplying the pocket was impossible. Zeitzler, too, instantly voiced 
his doubts. But Goering retorted that it was exclusively the business of 
the air force to undertake the necessary calculations. Hitler, who could 
be so pedantic about erecting edifices of figures, on this day did not 
even ask for an accounting of how the necessary planes could be made 
available. He had revived at Goering's mere words, and had recovered 
his old staunchness. "Then Stalingrad can be held! It is foolish to go on 
talking any more about a breakout of the Sixth Army. It would lose all 
its heavy weapons and have no fighting strength left. The Sixth Army 
remains in Stalingrad!"* 

Although Goering knew that the fate of the army encircled in 
Stalingrad hung on his promise, on December 12, 1942, 6 he issued in- 
vitations to his subordinates to attend a festive performance of Richard 
Wagner s Die Meistersinger to celebrate the reopening of the destroyed 
Berlin State Opera House. In gala uniforms or full dress we took our 
seats in the Fuehrers big box. The jovial plot of the opera painfully 
contrasted with the events at the front, so that I kept chiding myself for 
having accepted the invitation. 

A few days later I was back at the Fuehrer s headquarters. Zeitzler 
was now giving a daily report on the tons of rations and munitions the 
Sixth Army was receiving by air. They came to only a fraction of the 
promised quantities. Goering, repeatedly called to account by Hitler, 
had excuses: The weather was bad, fog, freezing rain, or snowstorms 
had so far prevented commitment of as many planes as planned. But 
as soon as the weather changed, Goering said, he would be able to de- 
liver the promised tonnage. 

Thereupon, food rations had to be reduced still further in Stalin- 
grad. Zeitzler conspicuously had himself served the same rations in the 
General Staff casino, and visibly lost weight. After a few days of this 
Hitler informed him that he considered it improper for a chief of staff 
to wear out his nerves with such demonstrations of solidarity with the 
troops. He commanded Zeitzler to resume at once taking sufficient 
nourishment. However, for a few weeks Hitler prohibited the serving 
of champagne and cognac. The mood became blacker and blacker. 
Faces froze into masks. Often we stood about in silence. No one wanted 
to talk about the gradual destruction of what had been, only a few 
months before, a victorious army. 

But Hitler went on hoping; he was still hoping when I once more 

* Later experience with battles fought in winter by the retreating armies belies 
Hitler's theory, since adopted by some historians, that the Stalingrad pocket served 
its purpose because it tied up the Soviet forces for eight weeks. 


was at headquarters from January 2 to 7. The counterattack he had 
ordered, which was supposed to break the ring around Stalingrad and 
bring fresh supplies to the dying army, had failed two weeks before. 
The sole remaining hope, and that a faint one, lay in a decision to evacu- 
ate the pocket. 

One day, while I waited outside the situation room, I heard Zeitz- 
ler urging Keitel, literally begging him, on this day at least to support 
him in persuading Hitler to give the order for evacuation. This was the 
last moment to avert a fearful catastrophe, Zeitzler said. Keitel em- 
phatically agreed and solemnly promised Zeitzler that he would help 
as requested. But at the situation conference, when Hitler once again 
stressed the necessity of holding out in Stalingrad, Keitel strode emo- 
tionally toward him, pointed to the map, where a small remnant of the 
city was surrounded by thick red rings, and declared: "Mein Fuhrer, we 
will hold that!" 

In this hopeless situation, on January 15, 1943, Hitler signed a spe- 
cial decree giving Field Marshal Milch the power to take all measures 
in the air force and the civilian air fleet that he considered necessary 
for supplying Stalingrad— without asking Goering's permission.* At the 
time I telephoned Milch several times, for he had promised me to 
rescue my brother, who was caught with the rest of the encircled troops 
in Stalingrad. In the general confusion, however, it proved impossible 
to locate him. Desperate letters came from him. He had jaundice and 
swollen limbs, was taken to a field hospital, but could not endure con- 
ditions there and dragged himself back to his comrades at an artillery 
observation post. After that nothing more was heard from him. What 
my parents and I went through was repeated by hundreds of thousands 
of f amilies who for a time continued to receive airmail letters from the 
encircled city, until it was all over.** In the future Hitler never said an- 
other word about the catastrophe for which he and Goering were alone 
responsible. Instead, he commanded the immediate formation of a new 
Sixth Army which was supposed to restore the glory of the doomed one. 
A year and a half later, in the middle of August 1944, it too was encircled 
by the Russians and annihilated. 

Our enemies rightly regarded this disaster at Stalingrad as a turning 

* Milch directed this operation from the air force headquarters south of Stalin- 
grad. He was able to increase the flights to Stalingrad appreciably, so that at least 
some of the wounded could be evacuated. After performing his mission, Milch was 
received by Hitler. Their conversation ended in a violent clash over the desperate 
military situation, whose seriousness Hitler still refused to acknowledge. 

** Hitler could not have blocked delivery of these letters without causing wild 
rumors. But when the Soviet Army allowed German prisoners to send home postcards, 
Hitler ordered the cards destroyed. Because they were a sign of life from the rela- 
tives, they might have mitigated the Russophobia that was being so carefully cultivated 
by Hitler's propaganda apparatus. Fritzsche told me about this at Nuremberg. 

251 ) Commander in Chief Hitler 

point in the war. But at Hitler's headquarters the only reaction was a 
temporary numbness followed by a rush of feverish staff work in which 
the most trivial details were threshed over. Hitler began conceiving plans 
for new victories in 1943. The top leadership of the Reich, already torn 
by dissension and filled with envy and jealousy, did not close ranks in 
the face of the peril that was almost upon us. On the contrary, in that 
den of intrigue which Hitler had created by splitting all the centers of 
power, the gamblers began playing for higher stakes than ever before. 



In the winter of 1942, during the STALINGRAD crisis, bormann, kettel, 
and Lammers decided to close their own ring around Hitler more 
tightly. Henceforth, all orders to be signed by the Chief of State had 
to be cleared through these three men. This would supposedly prevent 
the unconsidered signing of decrees and therefore put a stop to the 
command confusion caused by this practice. Hitler was content so long 
as he retained the final decision. Henceforth, the divergent views of 
various branches of government would be "sifted" by this Committee of 
Three. In accepting this arrangement Hitler counted on objective pres- 
entation and a nonpartisan method of working. 

The three-man committee divided up its jurisdictions. Keitel, who 
was to be in charge of all orders relating to the armed forces, came to 
grief right from the start, since the commanders in chief of the air force 
and the navy utterly refused to accept his authority. All changes in 
the powers of the ministries, all constitutional affairs, and all admin- 
istrative questions were supposed to go through Lammers. As it turned 
out, however, he had to leave these decisions more and more to Bor- 
mann, since he himself had little access to Hitler. Bormann had reserved 
the field of domestic policy for himself. But he not only lacked the in- 
telligence for these matters; he also had insufficient knowledge of the 
outside world. For more than eight years he had been little more than 

( *5* ) 

2 53 ) Intrigues 

Hitler s shadow. He had never dared go on any lengthy business trips, 
or even to allow himself a vacation, for fear that his influence might di- 
minish. From his own days as Hess's deputy, Bormann knew the perils 
of ambitious deputies. For Hitler was all too ready to treat the second 
men in an organization, as soon as they were presented to him, as mem- 
bers of his staff and to make assignments directly to them. This quirk 
accorded with his tendency to divide power wherever he encountered 
it. Moreover, he loved to see new faces, to try out new persons. In order 
to avoid raising up such a rival in his own household, many a minister 
took care not to appoint an intelligent and vigorous deputy. 

The plan of these three men to surround Hitler, to filter his infor- 
mation and thus control his power, might have led to an abridgement 
of Hitler's one-man rule— had the Committee of Three consisted of men 
possessing initiative, imagination, and a sense of responsibility. But 
since they had been trained always to act in Hitlers name, they slav- 
ishly depended on the expressions of his will. What is more, Hitler soon 
stopped abiding by this regulation. It became a nuisance to him, and 
was, moreover, contrary to his temperament. But it is understandable 
that those who stood outside this ring resented its stranglehold. 

In fact Bormann was now assuming a role which could be danger- 
ous to the top functionaries. He alone, with Hitler's compliance, drew 
up the appointments calendar, which meant that he decided which 
civilian members of the government or party could see, or more im- 
portant, could not see, the Fuehrer. By now, hardly any of the ministers, 
Reichsleiters, or Gauleiters could penetrate to Hitler. They all had to 
ask Bormann to present their programs to him. Bormann was very ef- 
ficient. Usually the official in question received an answer in writing 
within a few days, whereas in the past he would have had to wait for 
months. I was one of the exceptions to this rule. Since my sphere was 
military in nature, I had access to Hitler whenever I wished. Hitler s 
military adjutants were the ones who set up my appointments. 

After my conferences with Hitler, it sometimes happened that the 
adjutant would announce Bormann, who would then come into the 
room carrying his files. In a few sentences he would report on the mem- 
oranda sent to him. He spoke monotonously and with seeming objec- 
tivity and would then advance his own solution. Usually Hitler merely 
nodded and spoke his terse, "Agreed." On the basis of this one word, or 
even a vague comment by Hitler, which was hardly meant as a direc- 
tive, Bormann would often draft lengthy instructions. In this way ten 
or more important decisions were sometimes made within half an hour. 
De facto, Bormann was conducting the internal affairs of the Reich. A 
few months afterward, on April 12, 1943, Bormann obtained Hitler's sig- 
nature to a seemingly unimportant piece of paper. He became "Secretary 


to the Fuehrer." Whereas previously his powers, strictly speaking, should 
have been restricted to party affairs, this new position now authorized 
him to act officially in any field he wished. 

After my first major achievements in the field of armaments, Goeb- 
bels's hostility toward me, apparent ever since his affair with Lida 
Baarova, gave way to good will. In the summer of 1942, 1 had asked him 
to put his propaganda apparatus to work to speed armaments produc- 
tion. Newsreels, picture magazines, and newspapers were required to 
publish articles on the subject. My prestige rose. Thanks to this direc- 
tive by the Propaganda Minister, I became one of the best-known per- 
sonages in the Reich. This improvement in my status in its turn was 
useful to my associates in their daily bouts with government and party 

All of Goebbels's speeches sounded the note of stereotyped fanati- 
cism, but it would be quite wrong to think of him as a hot-blooded man 
seething with temperament. Goebbels was a hard worker and some- 
thing of a martinet about the way his ideas were carried out. But he 
never let the minutiae make him lose sight of the whole situation. He 
had the gift of abstracting problems from their surrounding circum- 
stances so that, as it seemed to me then, he could arrive at objective 
judgments. I was impressed by his cynicism, but also by the logical 
arrangement of his ideas, which revealed his university training. To- 
ward Hitler, however, he seemed extremely constrained. 

During the first, successful phase of the war, Goebbels had shown 
no signs of ambition. On the contrary, as early as 1940 he expressed his 
intention of devoting himself to his many personal interests once the 
war was brought to a victorious conclusion. It would then be time for 
the next generation to assume responsibility, he would say. 

In December 1942 the disastrous course of affairs prompted him 
to invite three of his colleagues to call on him more often: Walther Funk, 
Robert Ley, and myself. The choice was typical of Goebbels, for we 
were all men of academic background, university graduates. 

Stalingrad had shaken us— not only the tragedy of the Sixth Army's 
soldiers, but even more, perhaps, the question of how such a disaster 
could have taken place under Hitler's orders. For hitherto there had 
always been a success to offset every setback; hitherto there Had been a 
new triumph to compensate for all losses or at least make everyone for- 
get them. Now for the first time we had suffered a defeat for which 
there was no compensation. 

In one of our discussions at the beginning of 1943, Goebbels made 
the point that we had had great military successes at the beginning of 
the war while taking only half-measures inside the Reich. Consequent- 
ly, we had thought we could go on being victorious without great ef- 

*55 ) Intrigues 

forts. The British, on the other hand, had been luckier in that Dunkirk 
had taken place right at the beginning of the war. This defeat had made 
them aware of the need to tighten up on the civilian economy. Now 
Stalingrad was our Dunkirk! The war could no longer be won simply 
by engendering confidence. 

In speaking this way Goebbels was referring to the information he 
had from his band of correspondents concerning the uneasiness and 
dissatisfaction among the populace. The public was actually demanding 
a ban on all luxuries, which did not help the national struggle. In gen- 
eral, Goebbels said, he could sense a great readiness among the people 
to exert themselves to the utmost. In fact, significant restrictions were a 
real necessity if only to revive popular confidence in the leadership. 

From the viewpoint of armaments, considerable sacrifices were 
certainly required. Hitler had demanded a step-up in production. What 
was more, in order to compensate for the tremendous casualties on the 
eastern front, eight hundred thousand of the younger skilled workers 
were going to be drafted. 1 Every subtraction of the German labor force 
would add to the difficulties all our factories were encountering. 

On the other hand, the air raids had shown that life could continue 
on an orderly basis in the severely affected cities. Tax revenues for in- 
stance went on being paid even after bombs falling on Treasury offices 
had destroyed the documents. Taking my cue directly from the princi- 
ple of self -responsibility in industry, I formulated a program which would 
substitute trust for distrust toward the populace and allow us to trim 
/our supervisory and administrative agencies, which alone employed 
I nearly three million persons. We considered ways in which the tax- 
payers could be made responsible for their own declarations, or the 
feasibility of not reassessing liability at all, or for withholding taxes 
from the payrolls. Given the billions being spent on the war every 
month, Goebbels and I argued, what did it matter if a few hundred 
millions were lost to the government due to the dishonesty of some 

A considerably greater stir was created by my demands that the 
working time of all government officials be extended to match the hours 
of armaments workers. That alone, in purely arithmetical terms, would 
have freed some two hundred thousand administrative people for arm- 
aments work. Furthermore, I wanted to release several hundreds of 
thousands of workers by a drastic cut in the living standard of the up- 
per classes. At a meeting of Central Planning, I made no attempt to 
gloss over the effect my radical proposals would have on the German 
scene: "This means that for the duration of the war, if it goes on for a 
long time, we shall be— to put it crudely— proletarianized." 2 Today, I 
am glad that my plan did not win acceptance. Had it, Germany would 
have faced the extraordinary burdens of the early postwar months eco- 


nomically even more weakened and administratively more disorganized. 
But I am also convinced that in England, for example— had she been 
facing the same situation— such proposals would have been consistently 
carried out. 

We had a hard time persuading a hesitant Hitler that certain austeri- 
ties were essential, that the administrative apparatus had to be enormously 
simplified, consumption checked, and cultural activities restricted. But 
my proposal that Goebbels handle all this was thwarted by an alert Bor- 
mann, who feared an increase in power on the part of this rival. Instead 
of Goebbels, Dr. Lammers, Bormann's ally in the Committee of Three, 
was assigned the task. He was a government official without initiative or 
imagination whose hair stood on end at the thought of such disregard for 
the sacred bureaucratic procedures. 

It was also Lammers who from January 1943 on presided over the 
Cabinet meetings, which were then resumed, in Hitler's stead. Not all 
members of the Cabinet were invited, only those who were concerned 
with the subjects on the agenda. But the meeting place, the Cabinet Room, 
showed what power the Committee of Three had acquired or at any 
rate intended to acquire. 

These meetings turned out quite heated. Goebbels and Funk sup- 
ported my radical views. Minister of the Interior Frick, as well as Lam- 
mers himself, raised the anticipated doubts. Sauckel maintained that 
he could provide any number of workers requested of him, including 
skilled personnel, from abroad. 3 Even when Goebbels demanded that 
leading party members forgo their previous, almost limitless luxuries, 
he could change nothing. And Eva Braun, ordinarily so unassuming, 
had no sooner heard of a proposed ban on permanent waves as well as 
the end of cosmetic production when she rushed to Hitler in high indig- 
nation. Hitler at once showed uncertainty. He advised me that instead 
of an outright ban I quietly stop production of "hair dyes and other 
items necessary for beauty culture," as well as "cessation of repairs 
upon apparatus for producing permanent waves."* 

After a few meetings in the Chancellery it was clear to Goebbels 
and me that armaments production would receive no spur from Bor- 
mann, Lammers, or Keitel. Our efforts had bogged down in meaning- 
less details. 

On February 18, 1943, Goebbels delivered his speech in the Sport- 
palast on "total war." It was not only directed to the population; it was 

Even Goebbels wavered on the question of cosmetics: "A whole series of in- 
dividual points are still being debated [by the public], especially the question of fem- 
inine beauty care. . . . Perhaps in this case we ought to be somewhat more lenient." 
(Diary entry for March 12, 1943.) Hitler's recommendation may be found in the 
FiihrerprotokoU, April 25, i943> Point 14. 

257 ) Intrigues 

obliquely addressed to the leadership which had ignored all our pro- 
posals for a radical commitment of domestic reserves. Basically, it was 
an attempt to place Lammers and all the other dawdlers under the pres- 
sure of the mob. 

Except for Hitlers most successful public meetings, I had never 
seen an audience so effectively roused to fanaticism. Back in his home, 
Goebbels astonished me by analyzing what had seemed to be a purely 
emotional outburst in terms of its psychological effects— much as an 
experienced actor might have done. He was also satisfied with his au- 
dience that evening. "Did you notice? They reacted to the smallest nu- 
ance and applauded at just the right moments. It was the politically 
best-trained audience you can find in Germany." This particular crowd 
had been rounded up out of the party organizations; among those pres- 
ent were popular intellectuals and actors like Heinrich George whose 
applause was caught by the newsreel cameras for the benefit of the 
wider public. 

But this speech by Goebbels also had a foreign-policy aspect. It 
was one of several attempts to supplement Hitler's purely military ap- 
proach by introducing politics. Goebbels at any rate thought that he 
was also pleading with the West to remember the danger which threat- 
ened all of Europe from the East. A few days later he expressed great 
satisfaction that the Western press had commented favorably upon 
these very sentences. 

At the time, as a matter of fact, Goebbels seemed interested in be- 
coming Foreign Minister. With all the eloquence at his command he 
tried to turn Hitler against Ribbentrop and for a while seemed to be 
succeeding. At least Hitler listened in silence to his arguments, without 
shifting the conversation to a less unpleasant subject, as was his habit. 
Goebbels already thought the game was won when Hitler unexpectedly 
began praising Ribbentrop's excellent work and his talent for negoti- 
ations with Germany's "allies." He concluded finally with the remark- 
able statement: "You're altogether wrong about Ribbentrop. He is one 
of the greatest men we have, and history will some day place him above 
Bismarck. He is greater than Bismarck." Along with this, Hitler for- 
bade Goebbels to extend any more feelers toward the West, as he had 
done in his Sportpalast speech. 

Nevertheless, Goebbels's speech on "total war" was followed up 
by a gesture which was roundly applauded by the public: He had 
Berlin's luxury restaurants and expensive places of amusement closed. 
Goering, to be sure, promptly interposed his bulk to protect his favorite 
restaurant, Horcher's. But when subsequently some demonstrators (set 
on by Goebbels) appeared at the restaurant and smashed the windows, 
Goering yielded. The result was a serious rift between him and Goebbels. 

On the evening after the speech in the Sportpalast mentioned above, 


many prominent persons assembled in the palatial residence that Goebbels 
had built shortly before the beginning of the war near the Brandenburg 
Gate. Among those present were Field Marshal Milch, Minister of Justice 
Thierack, State Secretary Stuckart of the Ministry of the Interior, 
Goering's right-hand man, State Secretary Korner, and Funk and Ley. 
For the first time a motion proposed by Milch and myself was discussed: 
to use Goering's powers as "Chairman of the Council of Ministers for the 
Defense of the Reich" in order to stiffen the home front. 

Nine days later Goebbels invited me to his home again, together 
with Funk and Ley. The huge building with its rich appointments now 
gave a gloomy appearance. In order to provide a good example of acting 
in the spirit of "total war," Goebbels had had the large public rooms 
closed and most of the electric bulbs removed in the remaining halls 
and rooms. We were asked into one of the smaller rooms, perhaps four 
hundred fifty square feet in area. Servants in livery served French cognac 
and tea; then Goebbels signaled to them to leave us undisturbed. 

"Things cannot go on this way," he began. "Here we are sitting in 
Berlin. Hitler does not hear what we have to say about the situation. I 
cannot influence him politically, cannot even report the most urgent 
measures in my area. Everything goes through Bormann. Hitler must be 
persuaded to come to Berlin more often." 

Domestic policy, Goebbels continued, had slipped entirely out of 
Hitler s hands. It was being controlled by Bormann, who managed to give 
Hitler the feeling that he was still directing things. Bormann, Goebbels 
said further, was guided only by ambition; with his rigidly doctrinaire 
approach, he represented a great danger to any sane evolution of policy. 
First and foremost his influence must be diminished! 

Altogether contrary to his habit, Goebbels did not even except 
Hitler from his critical remarks. "We are not having a leadership crisis/ 
but strictly speaking a 'Leader crisis'!" 4 To Goebbels, a born politician, it 
was incomprehensible that Hitler should have abandoned politics, that 
most important of instruments, in favor of playing a superfluous role as 
Commander in Chief. 

The rest of us could only agree; none of us could hold a candle to 
Goebbels where political instinct was concerned. His criticism showed 
what Stalingrad really meant. Goebbels had begun to doubt Hitlers star, 
and hence his victory— and we were doubting with him. 

I repeated the proposal we had made: that Goering be reinstalled 
in the function that had been intended for him at the beginning of the 
war. Here was an organizational position equipped with the fullest 
powers, including the right to issue decrees even without Hitler's col- 
laboration. From this post the power usurped by Bormann and Lammers 
could be shattered. Bormann and Lammers would have to bow to this 
existing authority whose potentialities had so far gone untapped because 
of Goering's indolence. 

259 ) Intrigues 

Since Goebbels and Goering were on bad terms because of the 
Horcher's Restaurant incident,* the group asked me to speak with Goering 
about the matter. 

The present-day reader may well wonder why, when we were making 
a last effort to rally all our forces, our choice should have fallen on this 
man who had done nothing but loll about in apathetic luxury for years. 
Goering had not always been this way, and his reputation of an admittedly 
violent but also energetic and intelligent person still lingered on from the 
days when he had built up the air force and the Four- Year Plan. There 
seemed a chance that if a task appealed to him he might recover some 
of his old daring and energy. And if not, we reckoned, then the com- 
mittee of the Reich Defense Council would in any case constitute an 
instrument that could make radical decisions. 

Only in retrospect do I realize that stripping Bormann and Lammers 
of power would hardly have changed the course of events. For the shift 
in direction we wanted to bring about could not be achieved by over- 
throwing Hitlers secretaries but solely by turning against Hitler himself. 
For us, however, that was beyond imagination. Instead, if we had suc- 
ceeded in restoring our personal positions which were endangered by 
Bormann, we would presumably have been ready to follow Hitler even 
more loyally than before, if possible; more so than we actually did under 
the cowardly Lammers and the scheming Bormann. The fact that we re- 
garded minimal differences as so important merely shows in how closed 
a world we all moved. 

This was the first time I emerged from my reserve as a specialist 
to plunge into political maneuvering. I had always carefully avoided 
such a step; but the fact that I took it now had a certain logic. I had 
decided that it was wrong to imagine I could concentrate exclusively 
upon my specialized work. In an authoritarian system anyone who wants 
to remain part of the leadership inevitably stumbles into fields of force 
where political battles are in progress. 

Goering was staying in his summer house at Obersalzberg. As I 
learned from Field Marshal Milch, he had deliberately withdrawn there 
for a rather long vacation because he was offended by Hitler's criticisms 
of his leadership of the air force. I went to see him the day after our 
meeting, February 28, 1943. He was prepared at once to receive me. 

The atmosphere of our discussion, which lasted for many hours, was 
friendly and unconstrained, in keeping with the intimate conditions of 
the relatively small house. I was astonished, though, by his lacquered 
fingernails and obviously rouged face, although the oversize ruby 

* The dispute between Goebbels and Goering over the restaurant was resolved 
as follows: The restaurant remained closed as a public restaurant, but it reopened 
as a club for the Luftwaffe. 


brooch on his green velvet dressing gown was already a familiar sight 
to me. 

Goering listened quietly to our proposal and to my report of our 
Berlin conference. As he sat he occasionally scooped a handful of unset 
gems from his pocket and playfully let them glide through his fingers. 
It seemed to delight him that we had thought of him. He too saw the 
danger in the way things were going with Bormann and agreed with our 
plans. But he was still angry with Goebbels because of the Horcher 
incident, until I finally proposed that he personally invite the Propa- 
ganda Minister here, so that we could thoroughly discuss our plan with 

Goebbels came to Berchtesgaden the very next day. I first informed 
him of the result of my discussion. Together, we drove to Goering*s, 
where I soon withdrew to let the two men, whose relations had been al- 
most continually strained, have it out. When I was called in again, 
Goering rubbed his hands with delight at the prospect of the struggle 
that was about to begin and showed his most engaging side. First of all, 
he said, the personnel of the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the 
Reich must be broadened. Goebbels and I ought to become members; the 
fact that we were not, by the way, indicated that the council was of 
little importance. 

There was also talk about the necessity for replacing Ribbentrop. 
The Foreign Minister should be persuading Hitler to adopt a rational 
policy, but instead he was too much Hitler s mouthpiece to find a political 
solution for our sorry military predicament. 

Growing more and more excited, Goebbels continued: "The Fuehrer 
has not seen through Lammers any more than he has seen through 

Goering sprang to his feet. "He's always putting in a word edgewise, 
torpedoing me below the water line. But that's ending right now! I'm 
going to see to it, gentlemen!" 

Goebbels was obviously relishing Goering's rage and deliberately 
trying to spur him on, while at the same time fearing some rash act 
on the part of the tactically unskilled Reich Marshal. "Depend on it, 
Herr Goering, we are going to open the Fuehrer's eyes about Bormann 
and Lammers. Only we mustn't risk going too far. We'll have to proceed 
slowly. You know the Fuehrer." His caution increased as he spoke: "At 
any rate we had better not talk too openly with the other members of 
the Council of Ministers. There's no need for them to know that we 
intend to slowly spike the Committee of Three. We're simply acting out 
of loyalty to the Fuehrer. We have no personal ambitions. But if each 
one of us supports the others to the Fuehrer we'll soon be on top of the 
situation and can form a solid fence around the Fuehrer." 

Goebbels was highly pleased by the time he left. "This is going to 

261 ) Intrigues 

work," he said to me. "Goering has really come to life again, don t you 

I too had not seen Goering so dynamic and bold in recent years. On 
a long walk in the peaceful vicinity of Obersalzberg, Goering and I 
discussed the course Bormann had taken. Goering maintained that 
Bormann was aiming at nothing less than the succession to Hitler, and 
that he would stop at nothing to outmaneuver him, Goering— in fact, 
all of us— in influencing Hitler. I took occasion to tell Goering how 
Bormann seized every opportunity to undermine the Reich Marshal's 
prestige. Goering listened with mounting feeling as I spoke of the tea- 
times with Hitler at Obersalzberg, from which Goering was excluded. 
There I had been able to observe Bormann s tactics at close vantage. 

He never worked by direct attack, I said. Instead, he would weave 
little incidents into his conversation which were effective only in their 
sum. Thus, for example, in the course of the teatime chatter Bormann 
would tell unfavorable anecdotes from Vienna in order to damage Baldur 
von Schirach, the Hitler Youth leader. But Bormann carefully avoided 
agreeing with Hitler's subsequent negative remarks. On the contrary, he 
thought it prudent to praise Schirach afterward— the kind of praise, of 
course, which would leave an unpleasant aftertaste. After about a year 
of this sort of thing Bormann had brought Hitler to the point of disliking 
Schirach and often feeling outright hostility toward him. Then— when 
Hitler was not around— Bormann could venture to go a step further. With 
an air of casually dismissing the matter but in reality annihilating the 
man, he would remark contemptuously that of course Schirach belonged 
in Vienna since everybody there was always intriguing against everybody 
else. Bormann would be playing the same sort of game against Goering, 
I added in conclusion. 

The trouble was that Goering was an easy mark for this sort of thing. 
In the course of these days at Obersalzberg, Goebbels himself spoke 
somewhat apologetically of the "baroque garments" Goering favored 
which did seem rather comical to anyone who did not know the Reich 
Marshal. And then Goering continued to comport himself with sovereign 
dignity, forgetful of his failures as Commander in Chief of the Air Force. 
Much later, in the spring of 1945, when Hitler publicly insulted his 
Reich Marshal in the most cutting manner before all the participants 
in the situation conference, Goering remarked to Below, Hitler's air force 
adjutant: "Speer was right when he warned me. Now Bormann has 

Goering was mistaken. Bormann had already done his work by the 
spring of 1943. 

A few days later, on March 5, 1943, I flew to headquarters to obtain 
several decisions on armaments questions from Hitler. My chief purpose, 


however, was to promote our little plot. I found it easy to persuade Hitler 
to invite Goebbels to headquarters. Things were especially dreary, and 
he looked forward to a visit from the sprightly, clever Propaganda 

Three days later Goebbels arrived at headquarters. He first took 
me aside. "What is the Fuehrer's mood, Herr Speer?" he asked. I had 
to tell him that Hitler was not feeling particularly warm toward Goering 
at this juncture and advised restraint. It would probably be better not to 
press the matter right now, I thought. Consequently, after briefly feeling 
my way, I had done nothing further. Goebbels agreed: "You're probably 
right. At the moment we had better not mention Goering to the Fuehrer. 
That would spoil everything." 

The massed Allied air raids, which had been going on for weeks 
and meeting almost no opposition, had further weakened Goering's 
already imperiled position. If Goering's name was as much as mentioned, 
Hitler would start fuming at the mistakes and omissions in the planning 
for air warfare. That very day Hitler had repeatedly exclaimed that 
if the bombings went on not only would the cities be destroyed, but the 
morale of the people would crack irreparably. Hitler was succumbing to 
the same error as the British strategists on the other side who were order- 
ing mass bombing. 

Hitler invited Goebbels and me to lunch. Oddly enough, on such 
occasions he refrained from asking Bormann— who was otherwise indis- 
pensable—to join him. In this respect he treated Bormann entirely as a 
secretary. Enlivened by Goebbels, Hitler became considerably more talka- 
tive than I was accustomed to seeing him on my visits to headquarters. He 
used the opportunity to unburden his mind and as usual made disparaging 
remarks about almost all of his associates except those of us who were 

After the meal I was dismissed, and Hitler spent several hours alone 
with Goebbels. The fact that Hitler courteously and amicably showed me 
out corresponded with his way of sharply separating individuals and 
areas. I did not return until it was time for the military situation con- 
ference. At supper we met again, this time all three of us. Hitler had a 
fire made in the fireplace; the orderly brought us a bottle of wine, and 
Fachinger mineral water for Hitler. We sat up until early morning in a 
relaxed, almost cozy atmosphere. I did not have a chance to say much, for 
Goebbels knew how to entertain Hitler: He spoke brilliantly, in polished 
phrases, with irony at the right place and admiration where Hitler ex- 
pected it, with sentimentality when the moment and the subject required 
it, with gossip and love affairs. He mixed everything in a masterly brew: 
theater, movies, and old times. But Hitler also listened with eager interest 
—as always— to a detailed account of the children of the Goebbels family. 
Their childish remarks, their favorite games, their frequently pungent 
comments, distracted Hitler from his cares that night. 

263 ) Intrigues 

By recalling earlier periods of difficulty which one way or another 
had been overcome, Goebbels contrived to strengthen Hitler's self- 
assurance and to flatter his vanity, which the sober tone of the military 
men hardly pampered. Hitler, for his part, reciprocated by magnifying his 
Propaganda Minister s achievements and thus giving him cause for pride. 
In general the leaders of the Third Reich were fond of mutual praise and 
were continually reassuring one another. 

In spite of certain qualms, Goebbels and I had agreed beforehand 
that somewhere in the course of the evening we would bring up our plans 
for activating the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich, 
or at least drop some hints about it. The atmosphere certainly seemed 
favorable— though there was always the danger that Hitler might take 
such suggestions as a criticism of the way he was running things— when 
suddenly this idyll at the fireplace was interrupted by the report of a heavy 
air raid on Nuremberg. As if he had guessed our intention— perhaps, too, 
he had been warned by Bormann— Hitler put on a scene such as I had 
seldom witnessed. He immediately had Brigadier General Bodenschatz, 
Goering's chief adjutant, hauled out of bed and brought before him, where 
the poor man had to take a terrible tongue-lashing on behalf of the 
"incompetent Reich Marshal." Goebbels and I tried to soothe Hitler, and 
finally he did calm down. But all our spadework had obviously been in 
vain. Goebbels, too, thought it advisable to give the subject wide berth 
for the present. Nevertheless, after Hitler's many expressions of apprecia- 
tion he felt that his political stock had risen considerably. Afterward, he 
no longer spoke of a "Leader crisis." On the contrary, it even seemed as 
if he had recovered his old confidence in Hitler. But we still had to go 
on with the struggle against Bormann, he decided. 

On March 17, Goebbels, Funk, Ley, and I met with Goering in the 
latter's Berlin palace on Leipziger Platz. At first Goering received us in 
his office, adopting his most official manner— planted behind his enormous 
desk on his Renaissance throne. We sat facing him on uncomfortable 
chairs. Initially, there was no sign of the cordiality he had shown at 
Obersalzberg. It rather seemed as if Goering had repented of his candor. 

But while the rest of us sat silent for the most part, Goering and 
Goebbels aroused each other by outlining the perils presented by that 
triumvirate around Hitler and by devising schemes for recapturing Hitler 
for ourselves. Goebbels seemed to have forgotten completely how Hitler 
had lashed into Goering only a few days earlier. Soon both of them saw 
their goal within reach. Goering, alternating as always between torpor 
and euphoria, was already beginning to discount the influence of the 
headquarters clique. "We mustn't overestimate it either, Herr Goebbels! 
Bormann and Keitel are nothing but the Fuehrer's secretaries, after all. 
Who do they think they are! As far as their own powers are concerned, 
they're nobodies." 

What seemed to disturb Goebbels most was the possibility that 


Bormann might utilize his direct contacts with the Gauleiters to build 
up bases against our efforts on the home front also. I recall the way 
Goebbels tried to enlist Ley against Bormann in his capacity of Organiza- 
tion Chief of the Party. Finally, Goebbels proposed that the Council of 
Ministers for the Defense of the Reich must be given the right to summon 
Gauleiters and call them to account. Fully aware that Goering would 
scarcely attend the sessions so often, he proposed weekly meetings. 
Casually, he added that probably it would be all right, wouldn't it, if 
he acted as deputy chairman if Goering were sometimes unable to attend. 5 
Goering did not see through Goebbels's machinations and consented. 
Behind the fronts of the great struggle for power the old rivalries 
continued to smolder. 

For a considerable time the numbers of workers whom Sauckel 
claimed to have sent into industry, statistics which he reported to Hitler, 
had ceased to correspond with the actual figures. The difference amounted 
to several hundred thousand. I proposed to our coalition that we join 
forces in compelling Sauckel, Bormann's outpost in our territory, as it 
were, to report truthful data. 

At Hitler s request a large building in the rustic Bavarian style had 
been erected near Berchtesgaden to house the Berlin Chancellery secre- 
tariat. Whenever Hitler stayed at Obersalzberg for months at a time, 
Lammers and his immediate staff conducted the business of the Chancel- 
lery there. Goering arranged for Lammers as the host to invite our group, 
as well as Sauckel and Milch, to meet in the conference room of this 
building on April 12, 1943. Before the meeting Milch and I once more 
reminded Goering of what we wanted. He rubbed his hands: "That will 
soon be taken care of !" 

We were surprised to find that Himmler, Bormann, and Keitel were 
also in the conference room. And to make matters worse, our ally 
Goebbels sent his apologies: On the way to Berchtesgaden he had suffered 
an attack of kidney colic and was lying ill in his special car. To this day 
I don't know whether this was true or whether he merely had an instinct 
for what was going to happen. 

That session marked the end of our alliance. Sauckel simply chal- 
lenged our demand for an additional two million, one hundred thousand 
workers for the entire economy, insisted that he had delivered the needed 
forces, and became furious when I charged that his figures could not be 

* Later we learned from General Roesch, our armaments inspector for Upper 
Bavaria, that Sauckel had directed his employment bureaus to list every worker who 
was assigned to a factory as placed, even if the worker turned out to be unqualified 
for the particular job and was sent back to the bureau. The factories, on the other 
hand, listed only those workers who were actually hired. ' 

265 ) Intrigues 

Milch and I expected that Goering would ask Sauckel for explanations 
and make him change his labor-assignment policy. Instead, to our horror 
Goering began with a violent attack upon Milch, and thus indirectly upon 
me. It was outrageous that Milch was making so many difficulties, he said. 
Our good party comrade Sauckel who was exerting himself to the utmost 
and had achieved such successes. ... He at any rate felt a great debt of 
gratitude toward him. Milch was simply blind to Sauckel's achievements. 

It was as though Goering had picked out the wrong phonograph 
record. In the ensuing prolonged discussion on the missing workers, each 
of the ministers present offered explanations, on entirely theoretical 
grounds, of the difference between the real and the official figures. 
Himmler commented with the greatest calm that perhaps the missing 
hundreds of thousands had died. 

The conference proved a total failure. No light was thrown on the 
question of the missing labor force, and in addition our grand assault 
on Bormann had come to grief. 

After this meeting Goering took me aside. "I know you like to work 
closely with my state secretary, Milch," he said. "In all friendship I'd like 
to warn you against him. He's unreliable; as soon as his own interests 
are in question, he'll trample over even his best friends." 

I immediately passed this remark on to Milch. He laughed. "A few 
days ago Goering told me exactly the same thing about you/' 

This attempt on Goering's part to sow distrust was the very opposite 
of what we had agreed on: that we would form a bloc. The sad fact was 
that our circles were so infected by suspicion that friendship was felt to 
be a threat. 

A few days after this affair Milch commented that Goering had 
switched sides because the Gestapo had proof of his drug addiction. 
Quite some time before Milch had suggested to me that I look closely 
at Goering's pupils. At the Nuremberg Trial my attorney, Dr. Flachsner, 
told me that Goering had been an addict long before 1933. Flachsner had 
acted as his lawyer once when he was sued for improperly administering 
a morphine injection.* 

Our attempt to mobilize Goering against Bormann was probably 
doomed to failure from the start for financial reasons as well. For as was 
later revealed by a Nuremberg document, Bormann had made Goering 
a gift of six million marks from the industrialists' Adolf Hitler Fund. 

After the collapse of our alliance, Goering actually bestirred him- 
self for a while, but, surprisingly, his activity was directed against me. 
Contrary to his habit, a few weeks later he asked me to invite the leading 

* A lady's dress caught fire in a night club. Goering gave her an injection of 
morphine to relieve the pain. But the injection left a scar and the woman sued Goering. 


men in the steel industry to a conference at Obersalzberg. The meeting 
took place at the drafting tables in my studio and was memorable only 
because of Goering's behavior. He appeared in an euphoric mood, his 
pupils visibly narrowed, and delivered to the astonished specialists from 
the steel industry a long lecture on the manufacture of steel, parading all 
his knowledge of blast furnaces and metallurgy. There followed a succes- 
sion of commonplaces: We had to produce more, must not shim innova- 
tions; industry was frozen in tradition, must learn to jump over its own 
shadow; and more of the like. At the end of his two-hour torrent of 
bombast, Goering's speech slowed and his expression grew more and 
more absent. Finally, he abruptly put his head on the table and fell 
peacefully asleep. We thought it politic to pretend to ignore the splendidly 
uniformed Reich Marshal and proceeded to discuss our problems until 
he awoke again and curtly declared the meeting over. 

For next day Goering had announced a conference on radar problems 
which likewise ended with nothing accomplished. Once again, in the best 
of humor, he gave endless explanations in his Imperial Majesty style, 
telling the specialists what they already knew and he knew nothing about. 
Finally, there came a spate of directives and injunctions. After he had 
left the meeting, highly pleased with himself, I had my hands full undoing 
the damage he had done, while somehow avoiding an outright disavowal 
of Goering. Nevertheless, the incident was so serious that I was com- 
pelled to inform Hitler about it. He seized the next opportunity to sum- 
mon the industrialists to headquarters on May 13, 1943, in order to restore 
the government's prestige.* 

A few months after this setback to our plans I ran into Himmler at 
headquarters. Bluntly, in a threatening voice, he said to me: "I think it 
would be very unwise of you to try to activate the Reich Marshal again!" 

But that was no longer possible in any case. Goering had relapsed 
into his lethargy, and for good. He did not wake up again until he was 
on trial in Nuremberg. 

* In an unpublished diary passage, May 15, 1943, Goebbels wrote: "He [Hitler] 
spent the whole day conferring with the captains of the armaments industry on the 
measures that must be taken now. This conference with the Fuehrer was intended 
to salve the wounds left by Goering's latest, rather unfortunate conference. Goering's 
tactical blunders offended the armaments manufacturers. The Fuehrer has now 
straightened that out." 


Second Man in the State 

Around the beginning of may 1943, a few weeks after the demise of 
our short-lived association, Goebbels was finding in Bormann the qualities 
he had ascribed to Goering a few weeks before. The two came to an 
arrangement— Goebbels promising to direct reports to Hitler through 
Bormann, in return for Bormanns extracting the right sort of decision 
from Hitler. It was clear that Goebbels had written Goering off; he 
would support him henceforth only as a prestige figurehead. 

Thus actual power had shifted still more in Bormanns favor. Never- 
theless, he had no way of knowing whether he might not need me some 
day. Although he must have heard of my ill-fated attempt to dethrone 
him, he behaved amiably toward me and hinted that I could come over 
to his camp as Goebbels had done. I did not avail myself of this offer, 
however. The price seemed to me too high: I would have become 
dependent upon him. 

Goebbels, too, continued to remain in close contact with me, for 
both of us were still bent on making utmost use of our domestic reserves. 
Undoubtedly, I behaved much too trustfully in my relations with him. I 
was fascinated by his dazzling friendliness and perfect manners, as well 
as by his cool logic. 

Outwardly, then, little had changed. The world in which we lived 
forced upon us dissimulation and hypocrisy. Among rivals an honest word 
was rarely spoken, for fear it would be carried back to Hitler in a dis- 

( 267 ) 


torted version. Everyone conspired, took Hitler s capriciousness into his 
reckonings, and won or lost in the course of this cryptic game. I played 
on this out-of-tune keyboard of mutual relations just as unscrupulously 
as all the others. 

In the second half of May, Goering sent word to me that he wanted to 
make a speech on armaments, together with me, in the Sportpalast. I 
agreed. A few days later, however, Hitler to my surprise appointed 
Goebbels as the speaker. When we were coordinating our texts, the 
Propaganda Minister advised me to shorten my speech, since his would 
take an hour. If you don t stay considerably under half an hour, the 
audience will lose interest." As usual, we sent both speeches to Hitler 
in manuscript, with a note to the effect that mine was going to be con- 
densed by a third. Hitler ordered me to come to Obersalzberg. While I 
was sitting by, he read the drafts Bormann handed to him. With what 
seemed to me eagerness, he ruthlessly cut Goebbels's speech by half 
within a few minutes. "Here, Bormann, inform the Doctor and tell him 
that I think Speers speech excellent." In the presence of the arch-intriguer 
Bormann, Hitler had thus helped me to increase my prestige vis-^-vis 
Goebbels. It was a way of letting both men know that I still stood high. I 
could count on Hitler s supporting me, if need be, against his closest 

My speech on June 5, 1943, in which I could for the first time an- 
nounce a sizable increase in armaments production, was a failure on two 
scores. From the party hierarchy I heard such comments as: "So it can be 
done without big sacrifices! Then why should we upset the populace by 
drastic measures?" The General Staff and the frontline commanders, on 
the other hand, doubted the truth of my statistics whenever they had 
supply difficulties with ammunition or ordnance. 

The Soviet winter offensive had ground to a halt. Our increased 
production enabled us to close the gap on the eastern front. What is more, 
the delivery of new weapons encouraged Hitler to make preparations for 
an offensive in spite of the winter s losses of materiel. The objective was 
to cut off a bend in the line near Kursk. The beginning of this offensive 
was prepared under the code name "Operation Citadel." It kept being 
postponed because Hitler counted heavily on the effectiveness of the new 
tanks. Above all he was expecting wonders from a new type of tank with 
electric drive constructed by Professor Porsche. 

At a simple supper in a small back room of the Chancellery furnished 
in peasant style, I by chance heard from Sepp Dietrich, the commander of 
Hitler s bodyguard, that Hitler intended to issue an order that this time 
no prisoners were to be taken. In the course of advances by SS units it 
had been established, Dietrich said, that the Soviet troops had killed 
their German prisoners. Hitler had then and there announced that a 
thousandfold retaliation in blood must be taken. 

269 ) Second Man in the State 

I was thunderstruck. But I was also selfishly alarmed at the sheer 
wastefulness of such a step. Hitler was counting on hundreds of thousands 
of prisoners. For months we had been trying in vain to close a gap of 
hundreds of thousands in the supply of labor. I therefore took the first 
opportunity to reason with Hitler on this score. It was not difficult to per- 
suade him to reconsider; he seemed rather relieved to be able to withdraw 
his pledge to the SS. That same day, July 8, 1943, he had Keitel prepare 
instructions to the effect that all prisoners must be sent into armaments 
production. 1 

The disagreement over the fate of prisoners proved to be unnecessary. 
The offensive began on July 5, but in spite of the formidable array of our 
most advanced weapons we were not able to encircle the Soviet forces. 
Hitler s confidence had been mistaken. After two weeks of battle he gave 
up. This failure was a sign that even in the summer the initiative had 
passed to the enemy. 

After the second winter disaster at Stalingrad, the Army High Com- 
mand had urged the establishing of a defensive position far to the rear, 
but Hitler would not hear of it. Now, after the thwarted offensive, even 
Hitler was ready to prepare defensive positions from twelve to fifteen 
miles behind the main line of battle. 2 The General Staff made a counter- 
proposal: establishing the defensive line on the west bank of the Dnieper 
where the steep slope, over a hundred and fifty feet high, dominated the 
plain across the river. There would presumably have been sufficient time 
for building an extensive defensive line there, for the Dnieper was still 
some one hundred twenty-five miles behind the front. But Hitler flatly 
rejected this plan. Whereas during his successful campaigns he had always 
hailed the German soldiers as the best in the world, he now declared: 
"Building a position so far to the rear is not possible for psychological 
reasons. If the troops learn that there are fortified positions perhaps 
sixty miles behind the front line, no one will be able to persuade them to 
fight. At the first opportunity they'll fall back without resistance." 3 

In spite of this ban, on Manstein's orders and with the tacit consent 
of Zeitzler, the Todt Organization began building fortified positions on the 
Bug in December 1943. Hitler found out about this from my deputy, 
Dorsch. At this time die Soviet armies were still some one hundred to one 
hundred and twenty-five miles east of the Bug River. And once again 
Hitler commanded, in unusually strong language and on the same grounds 
as before, that the work be stopped at once.* This building of rear posi- 
tions, he stormed, was proof again of the defeatist attitude of Manstein 
and his army group. 

* JodTs unpublished diary (entry for December 16, 1943) describes the outcome 
of this unauthorized action: "Dorsch reported the deployment of the Todt Organiza- 
tion along the Bug, something of which the Fuehrer had known nothing. . . . The 
Fuehrer spoke agitatedly to Minister Speer and me about the defeatist mood of 
Manstein's staff, which Gauleiter Koch had described to him." 


Hitler's obstinacy made it easier for the Soviet troops to harass our 
armies. For in Russia digging became impossible once the ground froze 
in November. What time we had was squandered. The soldiers were ex- 
posed with no defenses to the weather; moreover our winter equipment 
was of poor quality compared to that of the enemy. 

Such behavior was not the only indication that Hitler had refused 
to acknowledge the turn of affairs. In the spring of 1943 he had demanded 
that a three-mile-long road and railroad bridge be built across the Strait 
of Kerch, although we had long been building a cable railway there; it 
went into operation on June 14 with a daily capacity of one thousand tons. 
This amount of supplies just sufficed for the defensive needs of the Seven- 
teenth Army. But Hitler had not forsaken his plan to push through the 
Caucasus to Persia. He justified his order for the bridge explicitly on the 
necessity to transport materiel and troops to the Kuban bridgehead for an 
offensive.* His generals, however, had long put any such ideas out of their 
heads. On a visit to the Kuban bridgehead the frontline generals expressed 
anxiety over whether the positions could be held at all in the face of the 
enemy's obvious strength. When I reported these fears to Hitler he said 
contemptuously: "Nothing but empty evasions! Janicke is just like the 
General Staff; he hasn't faith in a new offensive." 

Shortly afterward, in the summer of 1943, General Janicke, com- 
mander of the Seventeenth Army, was forced to ask Zeitzler to recommend 
retreat from the exposed Kuban bridgehead. He wanted to take up a 
more favorable position in the Crimea to be ready for the expected Soviet 
winter offensive. Hitler, on the other hand, insisted even more obstinately 
than before that the building of the bridge for his offensive plans must be 
speeded. Even at that time it was clear that the bridge would never be 
completed. On September 4, the last German units began evacuating 
Hitler's bridgehead on the continent of Asia. 

Just as we had met at Goering's house to discuss overcoming the crisis 
in political leadership, Guderian, Zeitzler, Fromm, and I were now talking 
about the military leadership crisis. In the summer of 1943, General Gu- 
derian, Inspector General of the Tank Forces, asked me to set up a meet- 
ing with army Chief of Staff Zeitzler. There had been some disputes be- 
tween the two men, springing from unresolved jurisdictional questions. 
Since I had something approaching a friendly relationship with both gen- 
erals, it was natural to ask me to play the part of go-between. But it turned 
out that Guderian had more in mind than the settlement of minor disputes. 

* Because of the frequency of earth tremors, provision had to be made for extra- 
strength girders which would have required vast quantities of precious steel. In addi- 
tion, as Zeitzler pointed out during the situation conference, if we transported building 
materials for the bridge over the inadequate railroad facilities of the Crimea, we 
would be forced to curtail the shipments needed to maintain our defensive positions. 

271 ) Second Man in the State 

He wanted to discuss common tactics in regard to the matter of a new 
Commander in Chief of the army. We met in my home at Obersalzberg. 

The differences between Zeitzler and Guderian quickly dwindled 
to nothing. The conversation centered on the situation that had arisen 
from Hitler's assuming command of the army but not exercising it. The 
interests of the army as against the two other branches of the service 
and the SS must be represented more vigorously, Zeitzler thought. 
Hitler, as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, ought to remain non- 
partisan. A Commander in Chief of the army, Guderian added, had to 
maintain close personal contact with the army commanders. He should 
be looking out for the needs of his troops and deciding fundamental ques- 
tions of supply. But Hitler, both men agreed, had neither the time nor the 
inclination to act on this practical level, nor to uphold the special interests 
of one branch of the service. He appointed and deposed generals whom 
he hardly knew. Only a Commander in Chief who associated with his 
higher-ranking officers on a personal basis could decide such questions of 
personnel. The army knew, Guderian said, that Hitler scarcely interfered 
in the personnel policies of his Commanders in Chief of the air force and 
the navy. Only the army was exposed to this sort of treatment. 

We came to the conclusion that each of us would try to appeal to 
Hitler to appoint a new Commander in Chief of the army. But the very 
first hints that Guderian and I separately made to Hitler came to grief; he 
was obviously offended and rejected the idea in unusually sharp terms. I 
did not know that shortly before we spoke Field Marshals von Kluge and 
von Manstein had undertaken a similar probe on the same subject. Hitler 
must have assumed that we were all in collusion. 

The time when Hitler readily granted all my personal and organiza- 
tional requests was long since past. The triumvirate of Bormann, Lam- 
mers, and Keitel was doing its best to block any further extension of my 
power, even though concern for the armaments program might have dic- 
tated the opposite. However, there was little these three could do against 
the joint proposal by Admiral Doenitz and myself that we also assume con- 
trol of naval armaments. 

I had met Doenitz immediately after my appointment in June 1942. 
The then commander of the U-boat fleet received me in Paris in an apart- 
ment which struck me at once by its avant-garde severity. I was all the 
more taken with the plain surroundings since I had just come from an 
opulent lunch with many courses and expensive wines given by Field 
Marshal Sperrle, commander of the air forces stationed in France. He had 
set up headquarters in the Palais du Luxembourg, the former palace of 
Marie de Medicis. The Field Marshal's craving for luxury and public dis- 
play ran a close second to that of his superior Goering; he was also his 
match in corpulence. 


During the next several months problems connected with the build- 
ing of the large U-boat pens along the Atlantic brought Doenitz and me 
together several times. Admiral Raeder, Commander in Chief of the navy, 
seemed to be annoyed. He tartly forbade Doenitz to discuss technical 
questions directly with me. 

At the end of December 1942, Captain Schutze, the successful U-boat 
commander, informed me of serious dissension between the Berlin navy 
command and Doenitz. From various signs and portents, Schutze said, the 
submarine fleet knew that their commander was going to be relieved in 
the near future. A few days later I heard from State Secretary Naumann 
that the navy censor in the Propaganda Ministry had stricken the name of 
Doenitz from the captions of all press photos showing an inspection tour 
undertaken jointly by Raeder and Doenitz. 

When I was in headquarters at the beginning of January, Hitler was 
worked up over foreign press reports of a naval battle which the navy 
command had not informed him about in detail.* As if by chance, in our 
subsequent conference he raised the question of the feasibility of assem- 
bly-line building of U-boats, but soon he became more interested in the 
troubles I was having in my collaboration with Raeder. I told him of the 
stricture against my discussing technical questions with Doenitz, of the 
U-boat officers' fears that their commander was going to be replaced, and 
of the censorship of the photo captions. By now I had learned, from watch- 
ing Bormann s tactics, that one had to plant suspicions very carefully and 
gradually for them to be effective with Hitler. Any direct attempt to influ- 
ence him was hopeless, since he never accepted a decision which he 
thought had been imposed on him. Therefore I merely hinted that all ob- 
stacles standing in the way of our U-boat plans could be eliminated if 
Doenitz were given his head. Actually, what I wanted to achieve was the 
replacement of Raeder. But knowing the tenacity with which Hitler clung 
to his old associates I hardly hoped that I would succeed. 

On January 30, Doenitz was named Grand Admiral and simultane- 
ously appointed Commander in Chief of the navy, while Raeder was 
kicked upstairs: He became Admiral Inspector of the navy, which entitled 
him solely to the privilege of a state funeral. 

By resolute expertise and technical arguments, Doenitz was able to 
protect the navy from Hitler s whims until the end of the war. I met with 
him frequently to discuss the problems of building submarines— despite 
the fact that this close cooperation began with a foul-up. Without con- 
sulting me, after hearing a report from Doenitz, Hitler raised all naval 
armament to the highest priority. This happened in the middle of April, 
but only three months before, on January 22, 1943, he had already classi- 

* This was the naval battle that took place December 31, 1942. Hitler held that 
the Liitzow and the Hipper had retreated in the face of weaker English forces. He 
accused the navy of lacking fighting spirit. 

273 ) Second Man in the State 

fied the expanded tank program as the task of highest priority. The up- 
shot was that two programs would be competing. It was unnecessary for 
me to appeal to Hitler again. Before any controversy developed, Doenitz 
had already realized that cooperation with the massive apparatus of army 
procurement would be more useful than Hitlers favoritism. We soon 
agreed to transfer naval armaments production to my organization. In 
taking this on, I pledged myself to carry out the naval program Doenitz 
had envisaged. This meant, instead of the previous monthly production of 
twenty submarines of the smaller type totaling sixteen thousand tons dis- 
placement, producing forty U-boats per month with a displacement total- 
ing more than fifty thousand tons. In addition I was to double the number 
of minesweepers and PT boats. 

Doenitz had made it clear that only the production of a new type of 
U-boat could save our submarine warfare. The navy wanted to abandon 
the previous type of "surface ship" which occasionally moved under water. 
It wanted to give its U-boats the best possible streamlining and attain a 
higher underwater speed and a greater underwater range by doubling the 
power of the electric motors and simplifying the system of storage bat- 

As always in such cases, the chief problem was to find the right di- 
rector for this assignment. I chose a fellow Swabian, Otto Merker, who 
had hitherto proved his talents in the building of fire engines. Here was 
a challenge to all marine engineers. On July 5, 1943, Merker presented 
his new construction system to the heads of the navy. As was being done 
in the production of Liberty ships in the United States, the submarines 
were to be built in inland factories, where the machinery and electrical 
equipment would also be installed. They were then to be transported in 
sections to the coast and quickly assembled there. We would thus avoid 
the problem of the shipyards, whose limited facilities had so far stood in 
the way of any expansion of our shipbuilding programs. 4 Doenitz sounded 
almost emotional when he declared, at the end of our conference: "This 
means we are beginning a new life." 

For the time being, however, we had nothing but a vision of what 
the new U-boats would look like. In order to design them and to settle on 
the details, a development commission was established. Its chairman was 
not a leading engineer, as was customary, but Admiral Topp, whom Doe- 
nitz assigned to this task without our even attempting to clarify the com- 
plicated questions that arose as a result. The cooperation between Topp 
and Merker worked out as easily as that between Doenitz and myself. 

Barely four months after the first session of the development com- 
mission—on November n, 1943— all the drawings were finished. A month 
later Doenitz and I were able to inspect and even walk inside a wooden 
model of the large new sixteen hundred ton submarine. Even while the 
blueprints were being prepared, our Directive Committee for Shipbuild- 


ing was assigning contracts to industry— a procedure we had already used 
in speeding up the production of the new Panther tank. Thanks to all this, 
the first seaworthy U-boats of the new type were delivered to the navy for 
testing in 1944. We would have been able to keep our promise of deliver- 
ing forty boats a month by early in 1945, however badly the war was 
going otherwise, if air raids had not destroyed a third of the submarines 
at the dockyards. 5 

At the time, Doenitz and I often asked ourselves why we had not 
begun building the new type of U-boat earlier. For no technical innova- 
tions were employed; the engineering principles had been known for 
years. The new boats, so the experts assured us, would have revolutionized 
submarine warfare. This fact seemed to be appreciated by the American 
navy, which after the war began building the new type for itself. 

On July 26, 1943, three days after Doenitz and I signed our joint 
decree on the new naval program, I obtained Hitlers consent to placing 
all production under my Ministry. For tactical reasons I had asked for this 
on the grounds of the additional burdens which the naval program and 
other tasks required by Hitler were imposing upon industry. By transform- 
ing large consumer goods plants into armaments plants, I explained to 
Hitler, we would not only free half a million German workers but also 
enlist the industrial managers and the factory machinery in our urgent 
programs. Most of the Gauleiters, however, objected to such measures. 
The Ministry of Economics had proved too weak to enforce such shifts 
against the opposition of the Gauleiters. And, to jump a bit ahead in the 
story, I also was too weak, as I was soon forced to realize. 

After an unusually protracted procedure, in which all the ministers 
involved and all the various boards of the Four- Year Plan were requested 
to hand in their objections, Lammers convoked the ministers for a meeting 
in the Cabinet Room on August 26. Thanks to the generosity of Funk, 
who at this meeting "delivered his own funeral oration with wit and 
humor," it was unanimously agreed that from now on all war production 
would be placed under the control of my Ministry. Willy-nilly, Lammers 
had to promise to communicate this result to Hitler via Bormann. A few 
days later Funk and I went to the Fuehrer's headquarters together to re- 
ceive Hitlers final authorization. 

Greatly to my surprise, however, Hitler, in Funk's presence, cut short 
my remarks, saying irritably that he would not listen to any further ex- 
planations. Only a few hours ago Bormann had warned him, he said, that 
I was going to lure him into signing something that had been discussed 
neither with Reich Minister Lammers nor with the Reich Marshal. He 
was not going to be drawn into our little rivalries. When I tried to explain 
that Reich Minister Lammers had properly obtained the consent of Goe- 
rings state secretary for the Four-Year Plan, Hitler again cut me off with 

275 ) Second Man in the State 

unaccustomed curtness: "I am glad that in Bormann at least I have a faith- 
ful soul around me." The implication was clear: He was accusing me of 

Funk informed Lammers of the incident. Then we went to meet Goe- 
ring, who was on the way to Hitler's headquarters in his private car; he had 
just come from his personal hunting preserve, the Rominten Heath. Goe- 
ring, too, was very huffy; undoubtedly he had been told only one side of 
the story and had been warned against us. Funk, amiable and persuasive, 
finally succeeded in breaking the ice and going over our decree point by 
point. And now Goering indicated full agreement, though not before we 
had inserted a sentence: "The powers of the Reich Marshal of the Greater 
German Reich as Commissioner General for the Four- Year Plan remain 
unaffected." In practice that was a very minor reservation— all the more 
so since most of the important functions of the Four- Year Plan were di- 
rected by me anyhow through the Central Planning Board. 

As a sign of his approval, Goering signed our draft, and Lammers 
could report by teletype that there were no longer any objections. There- 
upon Hitler, too, was ready to sign the draft when it was presented to him 
for signature a few days later, on September 2. From a Reich Minister of 
Armaments and Munitions I had now become Reich Minister of Arma- 
ments and War Production. 

Bormann's intrigue had fallen through this time. I did not make 
remonstrances to Hitler; instead, I left it to him to consider whether 
Bormann had actually served him loyally in this case. After my recent 
experiences I knew it was wiser not to expose Bormann's machinations and 
to spare Hitler embarrassment. 

But Bormann was surely the source of all the overt or covert opposi- 
tion to an expansion of my Ministry. To Bormann it was all too clear that 
I was moving outside the reach of his power and accumulating more and 
more power myself. Moreover, my work had brought me into comradely 
contacts with the leadership of the army and navy: with Guderian, Zeitz- 
ler, Fromm, and Milch, and now lately with Doenitz. Even in Hitler s 
immediate entourage I was particularly close to the anti-Bormann forces: 
Hitler's army adjutant, General Engel; his air force adjutant, General von 
Below, and Hitler's armed forces adjutant, General Schmundt. In addi- 
tion Hitler's physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, whom Bormann likewise consid- 
ered a personal opponent of his, was quite close to me. 

One evening when I had had a few glasses of Steinhager with 
Schmundt, he came out with the declaration that I was the army's great 
hope. Wherever he went, he said, the generals had the greatest confidence 
in me, whereas they had nothing but derogatory opinions of Goering. With 
rather high-flown emotion he concluded: "You can always rely on the 
army, Herr Speer. It is behind you." 

I have never quite fathomed what Schmundt had in mind, though I 


suspect that he was confusing the army with the generals. But it seems 
probable that Schmundt must have said something of the sort to others. 
Given the narrow confines of the headquarters, such remarks must surely 
have reached Bormann s ears. 

Around this time, perhaps in the autumn of 1943, Hitler put me in 
some embarrassment when, just before the beginning of a situation con- 
ference, he greeted Himmler and me in the presence of several associates 
with the phrase: "You two peers." Whatever Hitler meant by it, the chief 
of the SS could scarcely have been pleased by this remark, given his 
special niche in the power structure. In those same weeks Zeitzler, too, 
told me with pleasure: "The Fuehrer is so pleased with you. He recently 
said that he placed the greatest hopes in you, that now a new sun has 
arisen after Goering."* 

I asked Zeitzler not to quote this. But since the same words were re- 
ported to me by other persons within the headquarters area, there could 
be no doubt that Bormann also heard the tribute. Hitler s powerful sec- 
retary was forced to realize that he had not been able to turn Hitler 
against me that summer. Rather, the opposite had happened. 

Since Hitler did not say such things often, Bormann must have taken 
the threat to heart. To him, it spelled danger. From now on he kept telling 
his closest associates that I was not only an enemy of the party but was 
actually bent on succeeding Hitler.** He was not entirely wrong in this 
assumption. I recall having had several conversations with Milch about 
the matter. 

At the time Hitler must have been wondering whom he should se- 
lect for his successor. Goering's reputation was undermined, Hess had 
ruled himself out, Schirach had been ruined by Bormann's intrigues, and 
Bormann, Himmler, and Goebbels did not correspond to the "artistic type" 
Hitler envisaged. Hitler probably thought he recognized kindred features 
in me. He considered me a gifted artist who within a short time had won 
an impressive position within the political hierarchy and finally, by 
achievements in the field of armaments, had also demonstrated special 
abilities in the military field. Only in foreign policy, Hitler s fourth do- 
main, I had not come to the fore. Possibly he regarded me as an artistic 
genius who had successfully switched to politics, so that I thus indirectly 
served as a confirmation of his own career. 

* It might be thought that after years of experience Hitler would know how 
such remarks were received and what reactions they inevitably evoked. I could not 
decide whether Hitler did think this far ahead or was even capable of doing so. 
Sometimes he struck me as a total innocent— or as a misanthrope who did not care 
what the effects were. Perhaps, too, he believed that he could set things right himself 
whenever he chose. 

** Dr. G. Klopfer, Bormann's state secretary, testified in an affidavit dated July 
7, 1947: "Bormann repeatedly stated that Speer was a confirmed opponent of the party 
and was in fact ambitious to become Hitler's successor." 

277 ) Second Man in the State 

Among friends I always called Bormann "the man with the hedge 
clippers." For he was forever using all his energy, cunning, and brutality 
to prevent anyone from rising above a certain level. From then on, Bor- 
mann devoted his full capacities to reducing my power. After October 
1943 the Gauleiters formed a front against me. Before another year had 
passed, things became so difficult that I often wanted to give up and re- 
sign my post. Until the end of the war this struggle between Bormann and 
me remained undecided. Hitler did not want to lose me, even occasionally 
singled me out for a display of favor, but then again would turn on me 
rudely. Bormann could not wrest from me my successful industrial ap- 
paratus. This was so much my own creation that my fall would have 
meant the end of it and thus have endangered the war effort. 


The exuberance i had felt during the building of the new organization 
and the success and recognition of the early months soon gave way to 
more somber feelings. The labor problem, unsolved raw materials ques- 
tions, and court intrigues created constant worries. The British air raids 
began to have their first serious effects on production and for a while 
made me forget about Bormann, Sauckel, and the Central Planning Board. 
However they also served to raise my prestige. For in spite of the losses 
of factories we were producing more, not less. 

These air raids carried the war into our midst. In the burning and 
devastated cities we daily experienced the direct impact of the war. And 
it spurred us to do our utmost. 

Neither did the bombings and the hardships that resulted from them 
weaken the morale of the populace. On the contrary, from my visits to 
armaments plants and my contacts with the man in the street I carried 
away the impression of growing toughness. It may well be that the esti- 
mated loss of 9 percent of our production capacity 1 was amply balanced 
out by increased effort. 

Our heaviest expense was in fact the elaborate defensive measures. In 
the Reich and in the western theaters of war the barrels of ten thousand 
antiaircraft guns were pointed toward the sky. 2 The same guns could have 
well been employed in Russia against tanks and other ground targets. Had 
it not been for this new front, the air front over Germany, our defensive 

( *78 ) 

279 ) Bombs 

strength against tanks would have been about doubled, as far as equip- 
ment was concerned. Moreover, the antiaircraft force tied down hundreds 
of thousands of young soldiers. A third of the optical industry was busy 
producing gunsights for the flak batteries. About half of the electronics 
industry was engaged in producing radar and communications networks 
for defense against bombing. Simply because of this, in spite of the high 
level of the German electronics and optical industries, the supply of our 
frontline troops with modern equipment remained far behind that of the 
Western armies.* 

We were given a foretaste of our coming woes as early as the night of 
May 30, 1942, when the British gathered all their forces for an attack on 
Cologne with ten hundred and forty-six bombers. 

By chance Milch and I were summoned to see Goering on the morn- 
ing after the raid. This time he was not residing in Karinhall, but at 
Veldenstein castle in Franconia. We found him in a bad humor, still not 
believing the reports of the Cologne bombing. "Impossible, that many 
bombs cannot be dropped in a single night," he snarled at his adjutant. 
"Connect me with the Gauleiter of Cologne." 

There followed, in our presence, a preposterous telephone conversa- 
tion. "The report from your police commissioner is a stinking lie!" Ap- 
parently the Gauleiter begged to differ. "I tell you as the Reich Marshal 
that the figures cited are simply too high. How can you dare report such 
fantasies to the Fuehrer!" The Gauleiter at the other end of the line was 
evidently insisting on his figures. "How are you going to count the fire 
bombs? Those are nothing but estimates. I tell you once more they're 
many times too high. All wrong! Send another report to the Fuehrer at 
once revising your figures. Or are you trying to imply that I am lying? I 
have already delivered my report to the Fuehrer with the correct figures. 
That stands!" 

As though nothing had happened, Goering showed us through his 
house, his parents' former home. As if this were most serene peacetime, he 
had blueprints brought in and explained to us what a magnificent citadel 
he would be building to replace the simple Biedermeier house of his 
parents in the courtyard of the old ruin. But first of all he wanted to have 
a reliable air-raid shelter built. The plans for that were already drawn up. 

Three days later I was at headquarters. The excitement over the air 
raid on Cologne had not yet died down. I mentioned to Hitler the curious 
telephone conversation between Goering and Gauleiter Grohe— naturally 
assuming that Goering's information must be more authentic than the 

* Thus a serious shortage of army communications equipment developed— for 
instance, walkie-talkies for the infantry and sound-ranging apparatus for the artillery. 
In addition, further development of such devices had to be neglected in favor of 
antiaircraft weaponry. 


Gauleiter s. But Hitler had already formed his own opinion. He presented 
Goering with the reports in the enemy newspapers on the enormous num- 
ber of planes committed to the raid and the quantity of bombs they had 
dropped. These figures were even higher than those of the Cologne police 
commissioner. 3 Hitler was furious with Goering's attempt to cover up, 
but he also considered the staff of the air force command partly respon- 
sible. Next day Goering was received as usual. The affair was never men- 
tioned again. 

As early as September 20, 1942, I had warned Hitler that the tank 
production of Friedrichshafen and the ball-bearing facilities in Schwein- 
furt were crucial to our whole effort. Hitler thereupon ordered increased 
antiaircraft protection for these two cities. Actually, as I had early rec- 
ognized, the war could largely have been decided in 1943 if instead of 
vast but pointless area bombing the planes had concentrated on the cen- 
ters of armaments production. On April 11, 1943, 1 proposed to Hitler that 
a committee of industrial specialists be set to determining the crucial tar- 
gets in Soviet power production. Four weeks later, however, the first 
attempt was made— not by us but by the British air force— to influence the 
course of the war by destroying a single nerve center of the war econo- 
my. The principle followed was to paralyze a cross section, as it were— 
just as a motor can be made useless by the removal of the ignition. On 
May 17, 1943, a mere nineteen bombers of the RAF tried to strike at our 
whole armaments industry by destroying the hydroelectric plants of the 

The report that reached me in the early hours of the morning was 
most alarming. The largest of the dams, the Mohne dam, had been shat- 
tered and the reservoir emptied. As yet there were no reports on the three 
other dams. At dawn we landed at Werl Airfield, having first surveyed 
the scene of devastation from above. The power plant at the foot of the 
shattered dam looked as if it had been erased, along with its heavy 

A torrent of water had flooded the Ruhr Valley. That had the seem- 
ingly insignificant but grave consequence that the electrical installations 
at the pumping stations were soaked and muddied, so that industry was 
brought to a standstill and the water supply of the population imperiled. 
My report on the situation, which I soon afterward delivered at the 
Fuehrer s headquarters, made "a deep impression on the Fuehrer. He kept 
the documents with him."* 

The British had not succeeded, however, in destroying the three 

* Fuhrerprotokolly May 30, 1943, Point 16. We immediately summoned experts 
from all over Germany who had the electrical insulation dried out and also confiscated 
other motors of this type from other factories, regardless of the consequences. Thus 
the Ruhr industries would be supplied with water within a few weeks. 

281 ) Bombs 

other reservoirs. Had they done so, the Ruhr Valley would have been 
almost completely deprived of water in the coming summer months. At 
the largest of the reservoirs, the Sorpe Valley reservoir, they did achieve 
a direct hit on the center of the dam. I inspected it that same day. Fortu- 
nately the bomb hole was slightly higher than the water level. Just a few 
inches lower— and a small brook would have been transformed into a 
raging river which would have swept away the stone and earthen dam. 4 
That night, employing just a few bombers, the British came close to a 
success which would have been greater than anything they had achieved 
hitherto with a commitment of thousands of bombers. But they made a 
single mistake which puzzles me to this day: They divided their forces and 
that same night destroyed the Eder Valley dam, although it had nothing 
whatsoever to do with the supply of water to the Ruhr.* 

A few days after this attack seven thousand men, whom I had ordered 
shifted from the Atlantic Wall to the Mohne and Eder areas, were hard 
at work repairing the dams. On September 23, 1943, in the nick of time 
before the beginning of the rains, the breach in the Mohne dam was 
closed. 5 We were thus able to collect the precipitation of the late autumn 
and winter of 1943 for the needs of the following summer. While we were 
engaged in rebuilding, the British air force missed its second chance. A 
few bombs would have produced cave-ins at the exposed building sites, 
and a few fire bombs could have set the wooden scaffolding blazing. 

After these experiences I wondered once again why our LuftwaflFe > 
with its by now reduced forces, did not launch similar pinpoint attacks 
whose effects could be devastating. At the end of May 1943, two weeks 
after the British raid, I reminded Hitler of my idea of April 11 that a group 
of experts might pinpoint the key industrial targets in the enemy camp. 
But as so often, Hitler proved irresolute. *Tm afraid that the General Staff 
of the air force will not want to take advice from your industrial associates. 
I too have broached such a plan to General Jeschonnek several times. 
"But," he concluded in rather a resigned tone, "you speak to him about it 
sometime." Evidently Hitler was not going to do anything about this; he 
lacked any sense of the decisive importance of such operations. There is 
no question that once before he had thrown away his chance— between 
1939 and 1941 when he directed our air raids against England's cities in- 

* According to Charles Webster and Noble Franldand, The Strategic Air Of- 
fensive against Germany (London, 1961), Vol. II, the fifth plane succeeded in destroy- 
ing the Mohne Valley dam. Subsequent attacks were directed against the Eder Valley 
dam, which served mainly to equalize the water level of the Weser and the Midland 
Canal during the summer months, thus maintaining navigation. Not until this dam had 
been destroyed did two planes attack the Sorpe Valley dam. In the meantime Air 
Marshal Bottomley had suggested on April 5, 1943, that the Mohne and Sorpe dams 
be attacked before the Eder dam. But the bombs that had been developed specifically 
for this purpose were considered unsuitable for the earthen dam of the Sorpe reservoir. 


stead of coordinating them with the U-boat campaigns and, for example, 
attacking the English ports which were in any case sometimes strained 
beyond their capacity by the convoy system. Now he once again failed to 
see his opportunity. And the British, for their part, thoughtlessly copied 
this irrational conduct— aside from their single attack on the dams. 

In spite of Hitler's skepticism and my own lack of influence upon air 
force strategy, I did not feel discouraged. On June 23, I formed a com- 
mittee consisting of several industry experts to analyze prime bombing 
targets. 6 Our first proposal concerned the British coal industry, for British 
technical publications provided a complete picture of its centers, loca- 
tions, capacities, and so on. But this proposal came two years too late; our 
air power no longer sufficed. 

Given our reduced forces, one prime target virtually forced itself on 
our attention: the Russian electric power plants. To judge by our experi- 
ences, no systematically organized air defenses needed to be anticipated 
in Russia. Moreover, the electric power system in the Soviet Union differed 
structurally from that of the Western countries in one crucial point. 
Whereas the gradual industrial growth of the West had resulted in many 
middle-sized power plants connected in a grid, in the Soviet Union large 
power plants of gigantic dimensions had been built, usually in the heart 
of extensive industrial areas. 7 For example, a single huge power plant on 
the upper Volga supplied most of the energy consumption of Moscow. We 
had information, in fact, that 60 percent of the manufacturing of essen- 
tial optical parts and electrical equipment was concentrated in the Soviet 
capital. Moreover, the destruction of a few gigantic power plants in the 
Urals would have put a halt to much of Soviet steel production as well as 
to tank and munitions manufacture. A direct hit on the turbines or their 
conduits would have released masses of water of a destructiveness greater 
than that of many bombs. Since many of the major Soviet power plants 
had been built with the assistance of German companies, we were able to 
obtain very good data on them. 

On November 26, Goering gave the order to strengthen the Sixth Air 
Corps under Major General Rudolf Meister with long-range bombers. In 
December the units were assembled near Bialystok. 8 We had wooden 
models of the power plants made for use in training the pilots. Early in 
December I had informed Hitler. 9 Milch had relayed our plans to Giinter 
Korten, the new Chief of Staff of the air force. On February 4, I wrote 
Korten that "even today the prospects are good ... for an operative air 
campaign against the Soviet Union. ... I definitely hope that significant 
effects on the fighting power of the Soviet Union will result from it." I was 
referring specifically to the attacks upon the power plants in the vicinity 
of Moscow and the upper Volga. 

Success depended— as always in such operations— upon chance factors. 
I did not think that our action would decisively affect the war. But I 

283 ) Bombs 

hoped, as I wrote to Korten, that we would wreak enough damage on 
Soviet production so that it would take several months for American sup- 
plies to balance out their losses. 

Once again we were two years too late. The Russian winter offensive 
forced our troops to retreat. The situation had grown critical. In emer- 
gencies Hitler was, as so often, amazingly short-sighted. At the end of 
February he told me that the "Meister Corps" had been ordered to destroy 
railroad lines in order to slow down Russian supplies. I objected that the 
soil in Russia was frozen hard and our bombs would have only a super- 
ficial effect. Moreover, according to our own experience and despite the 
fact that the German railroads were much more complex and hence more 
sensitive to destruction, damage to railroad sections could often be re- 
paired in a matter of hours. But these objections were in vain. The "Meis- 
ter Corps" came to grief in a senseless operation, and the Russians were 
in no way impeded. 

Whatever interest Hitler might still have had in the idea of pinpoint 
bombing strategy was forgotten in his stubborn determination to retaliate 
against England. Even after the annihilation of the "Meister Corps," we 
would still have had enough bombers for limited targets. But Hitler suc- 
cumbed to the unrealistic hope that a few massive air strikes on London 
might persuade the British to give up their pounding of Germany. That 
was the only reason he continued to demand, as late as 1943, the develop- 
ment and production of new heavy bombers. It made no impression upon 
him that such bombers could have been used with far greater effect in the 
east, although occasionally, even as late as the summer of 1944, he would 
seem to be swayed by my arguments. 10 He as well as our air force staff 
could not grasp the principle of aerial warfare in technological terms. 
Instead they proceeded along outmoded military lines. So did the other 
side at first. 

While I was trying to convert Hitler and the General Staff of the air 
force to this policy, our Western enemies launched five major attacks on 
a single big city— Hamburg— within a week, from July 25 to August 2. 11 
Rash as this operation was, it had catastrophic consequences for us. The 
first attacks put the water supply pipes out of action, so that in the sub- 
sequent bombings the fire department had no way of fighting the fires. 
Huge conflagrations created cyclone-like firestorms; the asphalt of the 
streets began to blaze; people were suffocated in their cellars or burned 
to death in the streets. The devastation of this series of air raids could be 
compared only with the effects of a major earthquake. Gauleiter Kauf- 
mann teletyped Hitler repeatedly, begging him to visit the stricken city. 
When these pleas proved fruitless, he asked Hitler at least to receive a 
delegation of some of the more heroic rescue crews. But Hitler refused 
even that. 


Hamburg had suffered the fate Goering and Hitler had conceived for 
London in 1940. At a supper in the Chancellery in that year Hitler had, 
in the course of a monologue, worked himself up to a frenzy of destruc- 

Have you ever looked at a map of London? It is so closely built up that 
one source of fire alone would suffice to destroy the whole city, as happened 
once before, two hundred years ago. Goering wants to use innumerable in- 
cendiary bombs of an altogether new type to create sources of fire in all parts 
of London. Fires everywhere. Thousands of them. Then they'll unite in one 
gigantic area conflagration. Goering has the right idea. Explosive bombs 
don't work, but it can be done with incendiary bombs— total destruction of 
London. What use will their fire department be once that really starts! 

Hamburg had put the fear of God in me. At the meeting of Central 
Planning on July 29 1 pointed out: "If the air raids continue on the present 
scale, within three months we shall be relieved of a number of questions 
we are at present discussing. We shall simply be coasting downhill, 
smoothly and relatively swiftly. . . . We might just as well hold the final 
meeting of Central Planning, in that case." Three days later I informed 
Hitler that armaments production was collapsing and threw in the further 
warning that a series of attacks of this sort, extended to six more major 
cities, would bring Germany's armaments production to a total halt.* 
"You'll straighten all that out again," he merely said. 

In fact Hitler was right. We straightened it out again— not because 
of our Central Planning organization, which with the best will in the 
world could issue only general instructions, but by the determined efforts 
of those directly concerned, first and foremost the workers themselves. 
Fortunately for us, a series of Hamburg-type raids was not repeated on 
such a scale against other cities. Thus the enemy once again allowed us 
to adjust ourselves to his strategy. 

We barely escaped a further catastrophic blow on August 17, 1943, 
only two weeks after the Hamburg bombings. The American air force 
launched its first strategic raid. It was directed against Schweinfurt where 
large factories of the ball-bearing industry were concentrated. Ball bear- 
ings had in any case already become a bottleneck in our efforts to increase 
armaments production. 

* The next day I informed Milch's colleagues of similar fears (Conference with 
chief of Air Force Procurement, August 3, 1943): "We are approaching the point of 
total collapse ... in our supply industry. Soon we will have airplanes, tanks, or 
trucks lacking certain key parts." Ten months later I said to a group of Hamburg 
dockworkers: "A while back we were saying to ourselves: If this goes on another few 
months we'll be washed up. Then armaments production will come to a standstill." 
(Office Journal.) 

285 ) Bombs 

But in this very first attack the other side committed a crucial mistake. 
Instead of concentrating on the ball-bearing plants, the sizable force of 
three hundred seventy-six Flying Fortresses divided up. One hundred and 
forty-six of the planes successfully attacked an airplane assembly plant in 
Regensburg, but with only minor consequences. Meanwhile, the British 
air force continued its indiscriminate attacks upon our cities. 

After this attack the production of ball bearings dropped by 38 per- 
cent. 12 Despite the peril to Schweinfurt we had to patch up our facilities 
there, for to attempt to relocate our ball-bearing industry would have 
held up production entirely for three or four months. In the light of our 
desperate needs we could also do nothing about the ball-bearing fac- 
tories in Berlin-Erkner, Cannstatt, or Steyr, although the enemy must 
have been aware of their location. 

In June 1946 the General Staff of the Royal Air Force asked me what 
would have been the results of concerted attacks on the ball-bearing in- 
dustry. I replied: 

Armaments production would have been crucially weakened after two 
months and after four months would have been brought completely to a 

This, to be sure, would have meant: 

One: All our ball-bearing factories (in Schweinfurt, Steyr, Erkner, Cann- 
statt, and in France and Italy) had been attacked simultaneously. 

Two: These attacks had been repeated three or four times, every two 
weeks, no matter what the pictures of the target area showed. 

Three: Any attempt at rebuilding these factories had been thwarted 
by further attacks, spaced at two-month intervals. 13 

After this first blow we were forced back on the ball-bearing stocks 
stored by the armed forces for use as repair parts. We soon consumed 
these, as well as whatever had been accumulated in the factories for cur- 
rent production. After these reserves were used up— they lasted for six to 
eight weeks— the sparse production was carried daily from the factories 
to the assembly plants, often in knapsacks. In those days we anxiously 
asked ourselves how soon the enemy would realize that he could paralyze 
the production of thousands of armaments plants merely by destroying 
five or six relatively small targets. 

The second serious blow, however, did not come until two months 
later. On October 14, 1943, 1 was at the East Prussian headquarters dis- 
cussing armaments questions with Hitler when Adjutant Schaub inter- 
rupted us: "The Reich Marshal urgently wishes to speak to you," he said 
to Hitler. "This time he has pleasant news." 

Hitler came back from the telephone in good spirits. A new daylight 
raid on Schweinfurt had ended with a great victory for our defenses, 


he said. 14 The countryside was strewn with downed American bombers. 
Uneasy, I asked for a short recess in our conference, since I wanted to 
telephone Schweinfurt myself. But all communications were shattered; I 
could not reach any of the factories. Finally, by enlisting the police, I 
managed to talk to the foreman of a ball-bearing factory. All the factories 
had been hard hit, he informed me. The oil baths for the bearings had 
caused serious fires in the machinery workshops; the damage was far 
worse than after the first attack. This time we had lost 67 percent of our 
ball-bearing production. 

My first measure after this second air raid was to appoint my most 
vigorous associate, General Manager Kessler, as special commissioner for 
ball-bearing production. Our reserves had been consumed; efforts to im- 
port ball bearings from Sweden and Switzerland had met with only slight 
success. Nevertheless, we were able to avoid total disaster by substituting 
slide bearings for ball bearings wherever possible. 15 But what really saved 
us was the fact that from this time on the enemy to our astonishment once 
again ceased his attacks on the ball-bearing industry. 16 

On December 23, the Erkner plant was heavily hit, but we were not 
sure whether this was a deliberate attack, since Berlin was being bombed 
in widely scattered areas. The picture did not change again until February 
1944. Then, within four days, Schweinfurt, Steyr, and Cannstatt were each 
subjected to two successive heavy attacks. Then followed raids on Erkner, 
Schweinfurt, and again Steyr. After only six weeks our production of bear- 
ings (above 6.3 centimeters in diameter) had been reduced to 29 percent 
of what it had been before the air raids. 17 

At the beginning of April 1944, however, the attacks on the ball-bear- 
ing industry ceased abruptly. Thus, the Allies threw away success when it 
was already in their hands. Had they continued the attacks of March and 
April with the same energy, we would quickly have been at our last gasp.* 
As it was, not a tank, plane, or other piece of weaponry failed to be pro- 
duced because of lack of ball bearings, even though such production had 
been increased by 19 percent from July 1943 to April 1944. 18 As far as 
armaments were concerned, Hitler s credo that the impossible could be 
made possible and that all forecasts and fears were too pessimistic, seemed 
to have proved itself true. 

Not until after the war did I learn the reason for the enemy's error. 

* Perhaps the enemy air staffs overrated the effects. Our Air Force General Staff 
also concluded from aerial photographs that an attack on a Soviet synthetic rubber 
factory in the fall of 1943 had completely wiped out production for many months 
to come. I showed these photos to our leading synthetic rubber specialist, Hoffmann, 
the manager of our plant in Hiils, which had undergone much more severe attacks. 
After pointing out various key sections of the plant which had not been hit, he ex- 
plained that the plant would be in full production again within a week or two. 

Hitler and Speer examining blueprints. ( spiegel-ahchiv ) 
Hitlers sketch of the domed hall, 1925. ( speer- archiv ) 



iiiimiiiiiiiiiiii x 


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ad .- 

i.aa. a. 

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The Great Hall planned for Berlin, (evo koenig, black stau' 



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Model of Berlins neio center (Tempelhof Field, upper left). 1939. 


View from the South Station: Arch of Triumph with th( 
Great Hall at far end. ( speer-archiv ) 

above left: Entrance hall of 
Goer lags palace in Berlin, 
model. ( speer- archiv ) 

below leet: Fagade of Goerings 
palace. ( speeh-arciiiv ) 

above: A small section of 
Goerings palace, erected in 1:1 
scale, to control various details. 


/j,.j r rf \j'j,A -*J,4 ij* 

y-i&mztfrrrp povtx frrrgr ttxttz 

Hitlers design for 
monument to Mussolini. 


Hitlers rough sketch of a 
grand theater for Linz, 
which he hoped to convert 
into a metropolis. 


The Soldiers Hall, a 
memorial building to be 
opposite Goerings palace, 
model, 1Q38 (Architect: 
Wilhelm Kreis). 


^i !miaiaiai3i3i3H3iai]iii 

Um " ']■"'! 4! 1 '1 >i; J]!">]i >]! 41 >II 41 ))l -V >1H 

Model of entrance to Hitlers new palace, ( speeh-arci-iiv ) 
Facade of the palace (detail). ( speer-archiv ) 

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Hitler s sketch of a triumphal arch (enormous domed hall in the 
background), 1925. ( speer-archiv ) 

Hitler examining Speers model of the triumphal arch, presented upon 
the occasion of Hitlers fiftieth birthday in 1939. Left to right: Hitler, 
Colonel von Biiloic, unknown SS adjutant, Martin Bormann, 
Dr. Karl Brandt, Philip Bouhler, Hitler s army adjutant, Speer. 








■Ml 1 

Hitler with his party returning from visit to Eiffel Tower 
(Jane 28, IQ40). Front row, left to right: Unknown, Hermann Giessler, 
Speer, Hitler, Arno Breker. Second row: Unknown, two of Hitler s 
adjutants, Dr. Karl Brandt, Martin Borrnann. 


mm * 

Hitler visiting Paris Opera House. Speer on extreme right. 


t- ^^Zfc * 

.. v 



Margarele Speer with the pianist Alfred CortoL in Hotel Ritz, 
Paris, 1941. (speek-ahchiv) 

Bichelonne, the French Production Minister, and Speer inspecting 
the new steel works at Sahgitter, September 1943. ( speer- archiv) 



""LIN.OEN / 


Berlin muB in kilrzester Zeit durch seine bauliche 
Neugestaltung den ihm durch die GroBe unseres Sieges zu- 
komraenden Ausdruck als Hauptstadt eines starken neuen 
Reiches erhalten. 

In der Verwirklichung dieser nunmehr w i c h - 
tigs ten Bauaufgabe des Reiches 
sehe ich den bedeutendsten Beitrag zur endgiiltigen Sicher- 
stellung unseres Sieges. 

Ihre Vollendung erwarte ich bis zum Jahre 1950. 

Das Gleiche gilt auch fur die Neugestaltung der 
Stadte Munchen, Linz, Hamburg und die Parte itagbauten 
in Nurnberg. 

Alle Lienststellen des Reiches, der Lander und 
der Stadte sowie der Partei haben dem Generalbauinspektor 
fiir die Reichshauptstadt bei der Durchflihrung seiner 
Aufgaben jede geforderte Unterstiitzung zu gewahren. 

^ ^W" 

Hitlers decree ordering Speer to concentrate all his energies upon the 
reconstruction of Berlin, Munich, Linz and Hamburg as icell as the 
party buildings in Nuremberg. Signed on June 28, Hitler deliberately 
pre-dated this decree to June 25, the day of the French capitulation. 


287 ) Bombs 

The air staffs assumed that in Hitler's authoritarian state the important 
factories would be quickly shifted from the imperiled cities. On December 
20, 1943, Sir Arthur Harris declared his conviction that "at this stage of 
the war the Germans have long since made every possible effort to de- 
centralize the manufacture of so vital a product [as ball bearings]. " He 
considerably overestimated the strengths of the authoritarian system, 
which to the outside observer appeared so tightly knit. 

As early as December 19, 1942, eight months before the first air raid 
on Schweinfurt, I had sent a directive to the entire armaments industry 
stating: "The mounting intensity of the enemy air attacks compels ac- 
celerated preparations for shifting manufactures important for armaments 
production." But there was resistance on all sides. The Gauleiters did not 
want new factories in their districts for fear that the almost peacetime 
quiet of their small towns would be disturbed. My band of directors, for 
their part, did not want to expose themselves to political infighting. The 
result was that hardly anything was done. 

After the second heavy raid on Schweinfurt on October 14, 1943, we 
again decided to decentralize. Some of the facilities were to be distributed 
among the surrounding villages, others placed in small and as yet unen- 
dangered towns in eastern Germany.* This policy of dispersal was meant 
to provide for the future; but the plan encountered a great deal of opposi- 
tion. As late as January 1944 ^ e shifting of ball-bearing production to 
cave factories was still being discussed, 19 and in August 1944 m y repre- 
sentative to the ball-bearing industry complained that he was having dif- 
ficulties "pushing through the construction work for the shift of ball-bear- 
ing production." 20 

Instead of paralyzing vital segments of industry, the Royal Air Force 
began an air offensive against Berlin. I was having a conference in my 
private office on November 22, 1943, when the air-raid alarm sounded. It 
was about 7:30 p.m. A large fleet of bombers was reported heading toward 
Berlin. When the bombers reached Potsdam, I called off the meeting to 
drive to a nearby flak tower, intending to watch the attack from its plat- 
form, as was my wont. But I scarcely reached the top of the tower when 
I had to take shelter inside it; in spite of the tower's stout concrete walls, 
heavy hits nearby were shaking it. Injured antiaircraft gunners crowded 
down the stairs behind me; the air pressure from the exploding bombs had 
hurled them into the walls. For twenty minutes explosion followed explo- 

* In the two months following the first attack on Schweinfurt nothing had been 
done. "The minister forcefully expressed his dissatisfaction with the measures pre- 
viously taken, asserting that the urgency of the matter required all other considerations 
to be put aside. Deeply impressed by the damage and by the minister's account of 
the potential consequences for the armaments industry, everyone readily offered all 
assistance, even the neighboring Gauleiters who would have to accept the unwelcome 
intrusions into their domains that would accompany the transfer of operations from 
Schweinfurt to their territories." (Office Journal, October 18, 1943.) 


sion. From above I looked down into the well of the tower, where a close- 
ly packed crowd stood in the thickening haze formed by cement dust fall- 
ing from the walls. When the rain of bombs ceased, I ventured out on the 
platform again. My nearby Ministry was one gigantic conflagration. I 
drove over there at once. A few secretaries, looking like Amazons in their 
steel helmets, were trying to save files even while isolated time bombs 
went off in the vicinity. In place of my private office I f ound nothing but a 
huge bomb crater. 

The fire spread so quickly that nothing more could be rescued. But 
nearby was the eight-story building of the Army Ordnance Office, and 
since the fire was spreading to it and we were all nerved up from the raid 
and feeling the urge to do something, we thronged into the imperiled 
building in order at least to save the valuable special telephones. We 
ripped them from their wires and piled them up in a safe place in the base- 
ment shelter of the building. Next morning General Leeb, the chief of the 
Army Ordnance Office, visited me. "The fires in my building were extin- 
guished early in the morning hours," he informed me, grinning. "But un- 
fortunately we can't do any work now. Last night somebody ripped all the 
telephones from the walls." 

When Goering, at his country estate Karinhall, heard about that noc- 
turnal visit to the flak tower, he gave the staff there orders not to allow 
me to step out on the platform again. But by this time the officers had al- 
ready formed a friendly relationship with me that was stronger than Goe- 
ring's command. My visits to the tower were not hampered by his order. 

From the flak tower the air raids on Berlin were an unforgettable 
sight, and I had constantly to remind myself of the cruel reality in order 
not to be completely entranced by the scene: the illumination of the para- 
chute flares, which the Berliners called "Christmas trees," followed by 
flashes of explosions which were caught by the clouds of smoke, the in- 
numerable probing searchlights, the excitement when a plane was caught 
and tried to escape the cone of light, the brief flaming torch when it was 
hit. No doubt about it, this apocalypse provided a magnificent spectacle. 

As soon as the planes turned back, I drove to those districts of the 
city where important factories were situated. We drove over streets strewn 
with rubble, lined by burning houses. Bombed-out families sat or stood 
in front of the ruins. A few pieces of rescued furniture and other posses- 
sions lay about on the sidewalks. There was a sinister atmosphere full of 
biting smoke, soot, and flames. Sometimes the people displayed that curi- 
ous hysterical merriment that is often observed in the midst of disasters. 
Above the city hung a cloud of smoke that probably reached twenty thou- 
sand feet in height. Even by day it made the macabre scene as dark as 

I kept trying to describe my impressions to Hitler. But he would inter- 

289 ) Bombs 

rupt me every time, almost as soon as I began: "Incidentally, Speer, how 
many tanks can you deliver next month?" 

On November 26, 1943, four days after the destruction of my Min- 
istry, another major air raid on Berlin started huge fires in our most im- 
portant tank factory, Allkett. The Berlin central telephone exchange had 
been destroyed. My colleague Saur hit on the idea of reaching the Berlin 
fire department by way of our still intact direct line to the Fuehrers head- 
quarters. In this way Hitler, too, learned of the blaze, and without making 
any further inquiries ordered all the fire departments in the vicinity of 
Berlin to report to the burning tank plant. 

Meanwhile I had arrived at Allkett. The greater part of the main 
workshop had burned down, but the Berlin fire department had already 
succeeded in extinguishing the fire. As the result of Hitler's order, how- 
ever, a steady stream of fire equipment from cities as far away as Branden- 
burg, Oranienburg, and Potsdam kept arriving. Since a direct order from 
the Fuehrer had been issued, I could not persuade the chiefs to go on to 
other urgent fires. Early that morning the streets in a wide area around the 
tank factory were jammed with fire engines standing around doing noth- 
ing—while the fires spread unchecked in other parts of the city. 

In order to awaken my associates to the problems and anxieties about 
air armaments, Milch and I held a conference in September 1943 at the Air 
Force Experimental Center in Rechlin am Muritzsee. Among other things, 
Milch and his technical experts spoke on the future production of enemy 
aircraft. Graphs were presented for type after type of aircraft, with 
emphasis especially on American production curves as compared with our 
own. What alarmed us most were the figures on the future increase in 
four-motored daylight bombers. If these figures were accurate, what we 
were undergoing at the moment could be regarded only as a prelude. 

Naturally, the question arose as to how aware Hitler and Goering 
were of these figures. Bitterly, Milch told me that he had been trying 
for months to have his experts on enemy armaments deliver a report to 
Goering. But Goering refused to hear anything about it. The Fuehrer 
had told him it was all propaganda, Milch said, and Goering was simply 
holding to this line. I too had no luck when I tried to force these produc- 
tion figures on Hitler's attention. "Don't let them fool you. Those are all 
planted stories. Naturally those defeatists in the Air Ministry fall for 
them." With similar remarks he had thrust aside all warnings in the winter 
of 1942. Now, when our cities were one after the next being blasted into 
rubble, he would not change his tune. 

About this same time I witnessed a dramatic scene between Goering 
and General Galland, who commanded his fighter planes. Galland had 
reported to Hitler that day that several American fighter planes ac- 


companying the bomber squadrons had been shot down over Aachen. He 
had added the warning that we were in grave peril if American fighters, 
thanks to improved fuel capacity, should soon be able to provide escort 
protection to the fleets of bombers on flights even deeper into Germany. 
Hitler had just relayed these points to Goering. 

Goering was embarking for Rominten Heath on his special train 
when Galland came along to bid him good-by. 'What's the idea of telling 
the Fuehrer that American fighters have penetrated into the territory 
of the Reich?" Goering snapped at him. 

"Herr Reichsmarschall" Galland replied with imperturbable calm, 
"they will soon be flying even deeper ." 

Goering spoke even more vehemently: "That's nonsense, Galland, 
what gives you such fantasies? That's pure bluff!" 

Galland shook his head. "Those are the facts, Herr Reichsmarschalll" 
As he spoke he deliberately remained in a casual posture, his cap some- 
what askew, a long cigar clamped between his teeth. "American fighters 
have been shot down over Aachen. There is no doubt about it!" 

Goering obstinately held his ground: "That is simply not true, 
Galland. It's impossible." 

Galland reacted with a touch of mockery: "You might go and check 
it yourself, sir; the downed planes are there at Aachen." 

Goering tried to smooth matters over: "Come now, Galland, let me 
tell you something. I'm an experienced fighter pilot myself. I know what 
is possible. But I know what isn't, too. Admit you made a mistake." 

Galland only shook his head, until Goering finally declared: "What 
must have happened is that they were shot down much farther to the 
west. I mean, if they were very high when they were shot down they could 
have glided quite a distance farther before they crashed." 

Not a muscle moved in Galland's face. "Glided to the east, sir? If 
my plane were shot up . . ." 

"Now then, Herr Galland," Goering fulminated, trying to put an end 
to the debate, "I officially assert that the American fighter planes did 
not reach Aachen." 

The General ventured a last statement: "But, sir, they were there!" 

At this point Goering's self-control gave way. "I herewith give you an 
official order that they weren't there! Do you understand? The American 
fighters were not there! Get that! I intend to report that to the Fuehrer." 

Goering simply let General Galland stand there. But as he stalked 
off he turned once more and called out threateningly: "You have my 
official order!" 

With an unforgettable smile the General replied: "Orders are orders, 

Goering was not actually blind to reality. I would occasionally hear 
him make perceptive comments on the situation. Rather, he acted like a 

291 ) Bombs 

bankrupt who up to the last moment wants to deceive himself along with 
his creditors. Capricious treatment and blatant refusal to accept reality 
had already driven the first chief of Air Force Procurement, the famous 
fighter pilot Ernst Udet, to his death in 1941. On August 18, 1943, another 
of Goering's closest associates and the man who had been Air Force Chief 
of Staff for over four years, General Jeschonnek, was found dead in his 
office. He too had committed suicide. On his table, so Milch told me, a 
note was found stating that he did not wish Goering to attend his funeral. 
Nevertheless Goering showed up at the ceremony and deposited a wreath 
from Hitler. 21 

I have always thought it was a most valuable trait to recognize 
reality and not to pursue delusions. But when I now think over my life 
up to and including the years of imprisonment, there was no period in 
which I was free of delusory notions. 

The departure from reality, which was visibly spreading like a 
contagion, was no peculiarity of the National Socialist regime. But in 
normal circumstances people who turn their backs on reality are soon set 
straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes 
them aware they have lost credibility. In the Third Reich there were no 
such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum. 
On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of 
distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantas- 
tical dream world which no longer bore any relationship to the grim 
outside world. In those mirrors I could see nothing but my own face 
reproduced many times over. No external factors disturbed the unif ormity 
of hundreds of unchanging faces, all mine. 

There were differences of degree in the flight from reality. Thus 
Goebbels was surely many times closer to recognizing actualities than, 
say, Goering or Ley. But these differences shrink to nothing when we 
consider how remote all of us, the illusionists as well as the so-called 
realists, were from what was really going on. 

Hitler in the Autumn of 1 943 

Both his old associates and his adjutants agreed that hitler had xjn- 
dergone a change in the past year. This could scarcely be surprising, for 
during this period he had experienced Stalingrad, had looked on power- 
lessly as a quarter of a million soldiers surrendered in Tunisia, and had 
seen German cities leveled. Along with all this he had to approve the 
navy's decision to withdraw the U-boats from the Atlantic, thus relinquish- 
ing one of his greatest hopes for victory. Undoubtedly, Hitler could see the 
meaning of this turn of affairs. And undoubtedly he reacted to it as hu- 
man beings do, with disappointment, dejection, and increasingly forced 

In the years since then, Hitler may have become the object of sober 
studies for the historian. But for me he possesses to this day a substan- 
tiality and physical presence, as if he still existed in the flesh. Between 
the spring of 1942 and the summer of 1943 he sometimes spoke despond- 
ently. But, then, a curious transformation seemed to take place in him. 
Even in desperate situations he displayed confidence in ultimate victory. 
From this later period I can scarcely recall any remarks on the disastrous 
course of affairs, although I was expecting them. Had he gone on for so 
long persuading himself that he now firmly believed in victory? At any 
rate, the more inexorably events moved toward catastrophe, the more 
inflexible he became, the more rigidly convinced that everything he de- 
cided on was right. 

( *9* ) 

293 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

His closest associates noted his growing inaccessibility. He deliber- 
ately made his decisions in isolation. At the same time he had grown in- 
tellectually more sluggish and showed little inclination to develop new 
ideas. It was as if he were running along an unalterable track and could 
no longer find the strength to break out of it. 

Underlying all this was the impasse into which he had been driven 
by the superior power of his enemies. In January 1943 they had jointly 
issued a demand for Germany's unconditional surrender. Hitler was prob- 
ably the only German leader who entertained no illusions about the seri- 
ousness of this statement. Goebbels, Goering, and the others would talk 
about exploiting the political antagonisms among the Allies. Still others 
imagined that Hitler would find some political device by which he could 
save the situation, even now. After all, had he not earlier, starting with 
the occupation of Austria up to the pact with the Soviet Union, contrived 
with apparent ease a succession of new tricks, new shifts, new finesses? 
But now, during the situation conferences, he more and more often de- 
clared: "Don't fool yourself. There is no turning back. We can only move 
forward. We have burned our bridges." In speaking this way Hitler was 
cutting his government off from any negotiation. The meaning of these 
words was first fully revealed at the Nuremberg Trial. 

One of the causes for the changes in Hitler's personality, so I thought 
at the time, was the constant stress under which he labored. He was 
working in an unaccustomed way. Since the beginning of the Russian 
campaign he had abandoned his former staccato method of administering 
the affairs of government in flurries of activity, with spells of indolence 
in between. Instead, he regularly attended to an enormous daily mass of 
work. Whereas in the past he had known how to let others work for him, 
he now assumed more and more responsibility for details. As anxieties 
mounted, he made himself into a strictly disciplined worker. But such dis- 
cipline ran counter to his nature, and this was inevitably reflected in the 
quality of his decisions. 

It is true that even before the war Hitler had shown signs of over- 
work. At times he would be distinctly averse to making decisions, would 
appear absent-minded, and would relapse into painful spells of monologu- 
ing. Or else he would fall into a sort of muteness or would say nothing 
more than an occasional "yes" or "no." At such times it was not clear 
whether he still had his mind on the subject or was brooding on other 
thoughts. Earlier, however, these states of exhaustion did not usually last 
long. After staying at Obersalzberg for a few weeks he would appear 
more relaxed. His eyes would be brighter, his capacity for reaction would 
have increased, and he would recover his pleasure in state business. 


In 1943, too, his entourage frequently urged him to take a vacation. 
At such times he would change the location of his headquarters and 
would go for weeks and sometimes even for months to Obersalzberg.* 
But these vacations did not involve any change in his daily routine. Bor- 
mann was always hovering nearby, with endless small questions which 
the Fuehrer had to settle. There was a stream of callers, Gauleiters or 
ministers who could not obtain admission to headquarters and who now 
insisted on seeing him. Along with all this the lengthy daily situation con- 
ferences went on, for the entire military staff came along to wherever 
Hitler happened to be staying. Hitler frequently said, when we expressed 
concern for his health: "It's easy to advise me to take a vacation. But it's 
impossible. I cannot leave current military decisions to others even for 
twenty-four hours." 

The people in Hitler's military entourage had been used to con- 
centrated daily work from their youth. They could not have realized how 
overstrained Hitler was. Bormann, likewise, seemed unable to understand 
that he was asking too much of Hitler. But even apart from this, Hitler 
neglected to do what every factory executive must do: appoint good depu- 
ties for each important phase of his work. He had neither a competent 
executive chief nor a vigorous head of the armed forces nor even a capable 
Commander in Chief of the army. He continually flouted the old rule that 
the higher his position the more free time a man should have available. 
Formerly, he had abided by this rule. 

Overwork and isolation led to a peculiar state of petrifaction and 
rigor. He suffered from spells of mental torpor and was permanently 
caustic and irritable. Earlier, he had made decisions with almost sportive 
ease; now, he had to force them out of his exhausted brain. 1 As a former 
racing shell crewman I knew about the phenomenon of overtraining. I 
remembered how, when we reached such a state, our performance 
dropped, we became dull and irritable and lost all flexibility. We would 
become automatons to such an extent that a rest period seemed actually 
unwelcome and all we wanted was to go on training. Excessive intellec- 
tual strain can produce similar symptoms. During the difficult days of 
the war, I could observe in myself how my mind went on working me- 
chanically, while at the same time my ability to absorb fresh impressions 
diminished and I made decisions in an apathetic way. 

The fact that Hitler left the darkened Chancellery in silence and 
secrecy on the night of September 3, 1939, in order to go to the front, 
proved to be a step of high significance for the subsequent years. His 

* During the twenty months from July 28, 1941, to March 20, 1943, Hitler 
interrupted his stay in Rastenburg four times, for a total of fifty-seven days. Beginning 
on March 20, 1943, on his doctor's urging, he went to Obersalzberg for a three-month 
vacation and then worked for the next nine months in Rastenburg. After this, com- 
pletely exhausted, he spent the four months after March 16, 1944, at Obersalzberg 
and in Berlin. (Domarus, Hitlers Reden, Vol. IV [Munich, 1965].) 

295 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

relationship to the people had changed. Even when he did come into 
contact with the populace— at intervals of many months— their enthusiasm 
and capacity to respond to him had faded and his magnetic power over 
them seemed likewise to have fled. 

In the early thirties, during the final phases of the struggle for power, 
Hitler had driven himself as hard as during the second half of the war. 
But he probably drew more impetus and courage from those mass meet- 
ings than he himself had poured out upon the multitude. Even during the 
period between 1933 and 1939, when his position made life easier for 
him, he was visibly refreshed by the daily procession of admirers who 
came to pay homage to him at Obersalzberg. The rallies in the prewar 
period had also been a stimulant to Hitler. They were part of his life, and 
each one left him more incisive and self-assured than he had been before. 

The private circle— his secretaries, doctors, and adjutants— in which 
he moved at headquarters was, if possible, even less stimulating than the 
prewar circle at Obersalzberg had been, or the circle in the Chancellery. 
Here there were no people so carried away by his aura that they could 
hardly speak. Daily association with Hitler, as I had already observed in 
the days when he and I dreamed together over building projects, reduced 
him from the demigod Goebbels had made of him to a human being with 
all ordinary human needs and weaknesses, although his authority re- 
mained intact. 

Hitler's military entourage, too, must have been tiring to him. For 
in the matter-of-fact atmosphere of headquarters any touch of idolatry 
would have made a bad impression. On the contrary, the military officers 
remained distinctly dispassionate. Even had they not been so by nature, 
restrained etiquette was part of their training. For that reason the Byzan- 
tine flatteries of Keitel and Goering seemed all the more obtrusive. More- 
over, they did not sound genuine. Hitler himself encouraged his military 
entourage not to be servile. In that atmosphere objectivity remained the 
dominant note. 

Hitler would not listen to criticism about his own life pattern. Con- 
sequently, members of his entourage had to conceal their worries and 
accept his habits for what they were. More and more he avoided conver- 
sations of a personal nature, aside from the rare sentimental talks he had 
with a few of his comrades from the early days, such as Goebbels, Ley, 
or Esser. To me and others he spoke in an impersonal, rather aloof man- 
ner. Occasionally, Hitler still made decisions alertly and spontaneously, 
as he had in the past, and once in a long while he would even listen 
attentively to opposing arguments. But these times had become so unusual 
that we afterward made special note of them. 

Schmundt and I hit on the idea of bringing young frontline officers 
to Hitler, in order to introduce a little of the mood of the outside world 
into the stale, hermetic atmosphere of the headquarters. But our efforts 


came to nought. For one thing Hitler seemed unwilling to spare the time 
for such things, and then we also realized that these interviews did more 
harm than good. For example, a young tank officer reported that during 
the advance along the Terek his unit had encountered hardly any re- 
sistance and had had to check the advance only because it ran out of 
ammunition. In his overwrought state of mind, Hitler kept brooding on 
the matter for days afterward. "There you have it! Too little ammunition 
for the 7.5 centimeter guns! What's the matter with production? It must 
be increased at once by every possible means." Actually, given our 
limited facilities there was enough of this ammunition available; but the 
supply lines were so overextended that the supplies had not caught up 
with the tempestuous advance of the tank troops. Hitler, however, re- 
fused to take this factor into account. 

On such occasions the young frontline officers would disclose other 
details into which Hitler immediately read major errors of omission on 
the part of the General Staff. In reality most of the difficulties arose from 
the tempo of the advances, which Hitler insisted on. It was impossible 
for the army staff to discuss this matter with him, since he had no 
knowledge of the complicated logistics involved in such advances. 

At long intervals Hitler still continued to receive officers and en- 
listed men on whom he was to confer high military decorations. Given 
his distrust in the competence of his staff, there were often dramatic 
scenes and peremptory orders after such visits. In order to avert such 
complications, Keitel and Schmundt did their best to neutralize the visitors 
beforehand, insofar as they could. 

Hitler's evening tea, to which he invited guests even at headquarters, 
had in the course of time been shifted to two o'clock in the morning and 
did not end before three or four o'clock. The time when he went to bed 
had also been shifted more and more into the early morning, so that I once 
commented: "If the war goes on much longer we'll at least come around 
to the normal working hours of an early riser and take Hitler's evening tea 
as our breakfast." 

Hitler unquestionably suffered from insomnia. He spoke of the agony 
of lying awake if he went to bed earlier. During the tea he would often 
complain that the day before he had only been able to snatch a few 
hours of rest in the morning, after many hours of sleeplessness. 

Only the intimates were admitted to these teas: his doctors, his sec- 
retaries, his military and civilian adjutants, the press chiefs deputy, the 
Foreign Ministry's representative, Ambassador Hewel, sometimes his 
Viennese diet cook, such visitors as were close to Hitler, and the inevi- 
table Bormann. I too was welcome as a guest anytime. We sat stiffly in 
Hitlers dining room in uncomfortable armchairs. On these occasions 
Hitler still loved a gemutlich atmosphere, with, if possible, a fire in the 

297 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

fireplace. He passed cake to the secretaries with emphatic gallantry and 
tried to achieve a tone of friendliness with his guests like an easy-going 
host. I felt pity for him; there was always something misbegotten about 
his attempts to radiate warmth in order to receive it. 

Since music was banned at headquarters, there remained only con- 
versation, with Hitler himself doing most of the talking. His familiar 
jokes were appreciated as if they had been heard for the first time; his 
stories of his harsh youth or the "days of struggle" were listened to as 
raptly as if they were being told for the first time; but this circle could 
not whip up much liveliness or contribute to the conversation. It was an 
unwritten law that events at the front, politics, or criticism of leaders 
must be avoided. Naturally, Hitler, too, had no need to talk about such 
matters. Only Bormann had the privilege of making provocative remarks. 
Sometimes, too, a letter from Eva Braun would send Hitler into a fit, 
for she was apt to cite cases of blatant stupidity on the part of officials. 
When, for example, regulations were issued forbidding the people of 
Munich from going to the mountains for skiing, Hitler became extremely 
excited and launched into tirades about his everlasting struggle against 
the idiocy of the bureaucracy. In the end, Bormann would be ordered to 
look into such cases. 

The banality of the subjects indicated that Hitler's threshold of irri- 
tability had become extremely low. On the other hand, such trivialities 
really had a kind of relaxing effect on him, since they led him back to a 
world in which he could still issue effective orders. For the moment at 
least he could forget the impotence that had plagued him since his 
enemies had begun to shape the course of events. 

Even though he still played at being master of the situation and his 
circle did its best to abet him in his illusions, elements of the truth forced 
themselves upon his consciousness. At such moments, he would go back 
to his old litany that he had become a politician against his will, that 
basically he was an architect but that he had been out of luck: The kind 
of projects that would have suited his talents were not being built. Only 
when he himself was head of government was the right kind of building 
possible. He had only one remaining wish, he would say in one of those 
bursts of self-pity which became more and more frequent these days. "As 
soon as possible I want to hang the field-gray jacket on its nail again.* 
When I have ended the war victoriously, my life's task will be fulfilled, and 
I'll withdraw to the home of my old age, in Linz, across the Danube. Then 
my successor can worry about these problems." He had, it is true, some- 
times spoken in this vein before the beginning of the war, during those 

* Since the beginning of the war he had worn military dress rather than his old 
party uniform, and he had promised the Reichstag that he would not put it aside until 
the war was over— just as Isabella of Castile had once sworn not to take off her chemise 
until the country was liberated from the Moors. 


more relaxed teatimes at Obersalzberg. But in those days, I suspect, all 
that was mere coquettishness. Now, he formulated such thoughts unsen- 
timentally, in a normal conversational tone and with a credible note of 

His abiding interest in the plans for the city of his retirement years 
also gradually assumed an escapist character. Toward the end of the war, 
Hermann Giessler, the chief architect of Linz, was summoned to head- 
quarters more and more frequently to present his designs, whereas Hitler 
scarcely ever asked for the Hamburg, Berlin, Nuremberg, or Munich 
plans, which had previously meant so much to him. When he considered 
the torments he now had to endure, he would say gloomily, death could 
only mean a release for him. In keeping with this mood, when he studied 
the Linz plans he would repeatedly turn to the sketches for his tomb, 
which was to be located in one of the towers of the Linz complex of party 
buildings. Even after a victorious war, he emphasized, he did not want 
to be buried beside his field marshals in the Soldiers Hall in Berlin. 

During these nocturnal conversations in the Ukrainian or East Prus- 
sian headquarters, Hitler often gave the impression of being slightly un- 
balanced. The leaden heaviness of the early morning hours weighed on 
those few of us who participated. Only politeness and a sense of duty 
could induce us to attend the teas. For after the day of strenuous con- 
ferences, we could scarcely keep our eyes open during the monotonous 

Before Hitler appeared, someone might ask: "Say, where is Morell 
this evening?" 

Someone else would reply crossly: "He hasn't been here the past 
three evenings." 

One of the secretaries: "He could stand staying up late once in a 
while. It's always the same I'd love to sleep too/' 

Another: "We really should arrange to take turns. It isn't fair for 
some to shirk and the same people have to be here all the tune." 

Of course Hitler was still revered by this circle, but his nimbus was 
distinctly wearing thin. 

After Hitler had eaten breakfast late in the morning, the daily news- 
papers and press information sheets were presented to him. The press 
reports were crucially important in forming his opinions; they also had a 
great deal to do with his mood. Where specific foreign news items were 
concerned, he instantly formulated the official German position, usually 
highly aggressive, which he would then dictate word for word to his press 
chief, Dr. Dietrich, or to Dietrich's deputy, Lorenz. Hitler would boldly 
intrude on all areas of government, usually without consulting the min- 
isters in question, such as Goebbels or Ribbentrop, or even bothering to 
inform them beforehand. 

*99 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

After that, Hewel reported on foreign events, which Hitler took 
more calmly than he did the press notices. In hindsight it seems to me 
that he considered the reverberations more important than the realities; 
that the newspaper accounts interested him more than the events them- 

Schaub then brought in the reports of last night's air raids, which 
had been passed on from the Gauleiters to Bormann. Since I often went 
to look at the production facilities in the damaged cities a day or two 
later, I can judge that Hitler was correctly informed on the degree of 
destruction. It would in fact have been unwise of a Gauleiter to minimize 
the damage, since his prestige could only increase if, in spite of the devas- 
tation, he succeeded in restoring normal life and production. 

Hitler was obviously shaken by these reports, although less by the 
casualties among the populace or the bombing of residential areas than 
by the destruction of valuable buildings, especially theaters. As in his 
plans for the "reshaping of German cities" before the war, he was pri- 
marily interested in public architecture and seemed to give little thought 
to social distress and human misery. Consequently, he was likely to de- 
mand that burned-out theaters be rebuilt immediately. Several times I 
tried to remind him of other strains upon the construction industry. Appar- 
ently the local political authorities were also less than eager to carry out 
these unpopular orders, and Hitler, in any case sufficiently taken up by the 
military situation, seldom inquired about the way the work was going. 
Only in Munich, his second home, and in Berlin did he insist that the 
opera houses be rebuilt at great expenditure of labor and money. 2 

Incidentally, Hitler betrayed a remarkable ignorance of the true 
situation and the mood of the populace when he answered all objections 
with: "Theatrical performances are needed precisely because the morale 
of the people must be maintained." The urban population certainly had 
other things to worry about. Once more, such remarks showed to what 
extent Hitler was rooted in a "bourgeois milieu." 

While reading these reports, Hitler was in the habit of raging against 
the British government and the Jews, who were to blame for these air 
raids. We could force the enemy to stop by building a large fleet of 
bombers ourselves, he declared. Whenever I objected that we had neither 
the planes nor explosives for heavy bombing, 3 he always returned the 
same answer: "You've made so many things possible, Speer. Youll man- 
age that too." It seems to me, in retrospect, that our ability to produce 
more and more in spite of the air raids must have been one of the reasons 
that Hitler did not really take the air battle over Germany seriously. Con- 
sequently, Milch's and my proposals that the manufacture of bombers 
be radically reduced in favor of increased fighter-plane production was 
rejected until it was too late. 

I tried a few times to persuade Hitler to travel to the bombed cities 


and let himself be seen there. 4 Goebbels, too, had tried to put over the 
same idea, but in vain. He lamented Hitlers obstinacy and referred en- 
viously to the conduct of Churchill: "When I think of the propaganda 
value I could make of such a visit!" But Hitler regularly brushed away 
any such suggestion. During his drives from Stettin Station to the Chan- 
cellery, or to his apartment in Prinzregentenstrasse in Munich, he now 
ordered his chauffeur to take the shortest route, whereas he formerly 
loved long detours. Since I accompanied him several times on such drives, 
I saw with what absence of emotion he noted the new areas of rubble 
through which his car would pass. 

Morell had advised Hitler to take long walks, and it would indeed 
have been very easy to lay out a few paths in the adjacent East Prussian 
woods. But Hitler vetoed any such project. The result was that his daily 
airing consisted of a small circuit barely a hundred yards long within 
Restricted Area I. 

On these walks Hitlers interest was usually focused not on his 
companions but on his Alsatian dog Blondi. He used these intervals for 
training purposes. After a few exercises in fetching, the dog had to 
balance on a board about a foot wide and twenty-five feet long, mounted 
at a height of more than six feet. Hitler knew, of course, that a dog re- 
gards the man who feeds him as his master. Before the attendant opened 
the dog cage, Hitler usually let the excited dog leap up against the wire 
partitions for a few minutes, barking and whimpering with joy and 
hunger. Since I stood in special favor, I was sometimes allowed to accom- 
pany Hitler to this feeding, whereas all the others had to watch the pro- 
cess at a distance. The dog probably occupied the most important role 
in Hitler s private life; he meant more to his master than the Fuehrer s 
closest associates. 

Hitler frequently took his meals alone when no guest he liked was 
at headquarters. In that case only the dog kept him company. As a mat- 
ter of course, during my two- or three-day stays at headquarters I was 
asked to dine with the Fuehrer once or twice. People no doubt thought 
we were discussing important general matters or personal subjects during 
these meals. But even I found there was no talking with Hitler about 
broader aspects of the military situation, or even the economic situation. 
We stuck to trivial subjects or dreary production figures. 

Initially, he remained interested in the matters that had absorbed 
both of us in the past, such as the future shaping of German cities. He 
also wanted to plan a transcontinental railroad network which would 
link his future empire together economically. After he decided on the 
size of the wide-gauge track he wanted for the railroad, he began con- 
sidering various car types and plunging into detailed calculations on 

30i ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

freight tonnages. Such matters occupied him during his sleepless nights.* 
The Transportation Ministry thought that the drawbacks of two railroad 
systems more than outweighed the possible advantages, but Hitler had 
become obsessed with this idea; he decided that it was even more im- 
portant as a binding force in his empire than the autobahn system. 

From month to month Hitler became more taciturn. It may also be 
that he let himself go with me and made less of an effort at conversation 
than he did with other guests. In any case, from the autumn of 1943 on, 
a lunch with him became an ordeal. In silence, we spooned up our soup. 
While we waited for the next course we might make a few remarks about 
the weather, whereupon Hitler would usually say something acid about 
the incompetence of the weather bureau. Finally the conversation would 
revert to the quality of the food. He was highly pleased with his diet 
cook and praised her skill at vegetarian cuisine. If a dish seemed to him 
especially good, he asked me to have a taste of it. 

He was forever worried about gaining weight. "Out of the question! 
Imagine me going around with a potbelly. It would mean political ruin. ,, 
After making such remarks he would frequently call his orderly, to put 
an end to temptation: "Take this away, please, I like it too much." Inci- 
dentally, even here at headquarters he would often make fun of meat- 
eaters, but he did not attempt to sway me. He even had no objection to a 
Steinhager after fatty food— although he commented pityingly that he did 
not need it, with his fare. If there were a meat broth I could depend on 
his speaking of "corpse tea"; in connection with crayfish he brought out 
his story of a deceased grandmother whose relations had thrown her body 
into the brook to lure the crustaceans; for eels, that they were best fat- 
tened and caught by using dead cats. 

Earlier, during those evenings in the Chancellery, Hitler had never 
been shy about repeating stories as often as he pleased. But now, in these 
times of retreats and impending doom, such repetitions had to be re- 
garded as signs that he was in an especially good humor. For most of the 
time a deadly silence prevailed. I had the impression of a man whose life 
was slowly ebbing away. 

During conferences that often lasted for hours, or during meals, 
Hitler ordered his dog to he down in a certain corner. There the animal 
settled w'th a protesting growl. If he felt that he was not being watched, 
he crawled closer to his master s seat and after elaborate maneuvers finally 
landed with his snout against Hitler's knee, whereupon a sharp command 

* The idea behind this transcontinental service was that a single train would 
transport as much as a freighter. Hitler felt that sea travel was never sufficiently safe 
and was certainly unreliable in wartime. Even where plans for new railroad facilities 
had already been completed, as in Berlin and Munich, an extra pair of tracks had to 
be added for Hitler's new railroad system. 


banished him to his corner again. I avoided, as did any reasonably pru- 
dent visitor to Hitler, arousing any feelings of friendship in the dog. That 
was often not so easy, especially when at meals the dog laid his head on 
my knee and in this position attentively studied the pieces of meat, which 
he evidently preferred to his master's vegetarian dishes. When Hitler 
noticed such disloyalty, he irritably called the dog back. But still the dog 
remained the only living creature at headquarters who aroused any flicker 
of human feeling in Hitler. Only— the dog was mute. 

Hitlers deep estrangement from people proceeded slowly, almost 
imperceptibly. From about the autumn of 1943 on, he used to make one 
remark which was all too revealing of his unhappy isolation: "Speer, one 
of these days 111 have only two friends left, Fraulein Braun and my dog." 
His tone was so misanthropic, and the remark seemed to be wrung from 
such depths that it would not have done for me to assure him of my own 
loyalty. That was the one and only prediction of Hitler's that proved to 
be absolutely right. But that those two remained true to him was certainly 
no credit to Hitler, but rather to the staunchness of his mistress and the 
dependency of his dog. 

Later, in my many years of imprisonment, I discovered what it meant 
to live under great psychological pressure. Only then did I realize that 
Hitler s life had borne a great resemblance to that of a prisoner. His bunk- 
er, although it did not yet have the tomblike proportions it was to assume 
in July 1944, had the thick walls and ceilings of a prison. Iron doors and 
iron shutters guarded the few openings, and even his meager walks within 
the barbed wire brought him no more fresh air and contact with nature 
than a prisoner s endless tramp around the prison yard. 

Hitler's hour came when the main situation conference began after 
lunch, around two o'clock. Outwardly, the scene had not changed since 
the spring of 1942. Almost the same generals and adjutants gathered 
around the big map table. Only now all the participants seemed to have 
been aged and worn by the events of the past year and a half. Indifferent 
and rather resigned, they received his watchwords and commands. 

Positive aspects were played up. From the testimony of prisoners 
and special reports from the Russian front, it might appear that the enemy 
would soon be exhausted. The Russian casualties seemed to be much 
higher than ours because of their offensives— higher even in proportion 
to the relative sizes of our populations. Reports of insignificant successes 
loomed larger and larger in the course of these discussions, until they 
had become for Hitler incontrovertible evidence that Germany would 
after all be able to delay the Soviet onslaught until the Russians had been 
bled white. Moreover, many of us believed that Hitler would end the war 
at the right time. 

303 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

To forecast what we might expect in the next few months, Jodl pre- 
pared a report to Hitler. At the same time he tried to revive his real job 
as chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, which Hitler had more 
and more taken over. Jodl knew well Hitler s distrust for arguments based 
on calculations. Toward the end of 1943, Hitler was still speaking scorn- 
fully of a projection by General Georg Thomas which had rated the 
Soviet war potential as extremely high. Hitler was irate over this memo- 
randum, and soon after its presentation he had forbidden Thomas and 
the OKW to undertake any further studies of this type. When around 
the autumn of 1944 my planning board, in an earnest effort to help the 
military operations staff make its decisions, worked out a memorandum 
on the enemy's armaments capacities, we received a reprimand from 
Keitel and were told not to transmit such documents to the OKW. 

Thus, Jodl knew that there were serious barriers that prevented him 
from delivering his report. He therefore appointed a young air force 
colonel named Christian to give a quick sketch of the matter at one of the 
situation conferences. The colonel had the rather significant advantage of 
being married to one of Hitlers secretaries, one of those who belonged 
to the nightly teatime circle. The idea was to discern the enemy's possible 
long-run tactical plans and what the consequences would be for us. But 
aside from the scene of Colonel Christian's showing a completely silent 
Hitler various places on several large maps of Europe, I no longer recall 
what happened with this attempt. In any case, it failed miserably. 

Without much fuss, and without any rebellion on the part of those 
concerned, Hitler continued to make all decisions himself, in total disre- 
gard of any technical basis. He dispensed with analyses of the situation 
and logistical calculations. He did not rely on any study group which 
would examine all aspects of offensive plans in terms of their effective- 
ness and possible countermeasures by the enemy. The headquarters 
staffs were more than competent to carry out these functions of modern 
warfare; it would only have been necessary to activate them. To be sure, 
Hitler would accept information about partial aspects of situations; but 
the grand synthesis was supposed to be born solely in his head. His field 
marshals as well as his closest associates had, therefore, merely advisory 
functions, for his decision had usually been forged beforehand and only 
minor aspects of it were subject to change. Moreover, whatever he had 
learned from the eastern campaign in the years 1942-43 was rigorously re- 
pressed. Decisions were made in a total vacuum. 

At headquarters, where everyone lived under the tremendous pres- 
sure of responsibility, probably nothing was more welcome than a dictate 
from above. That meant being freed of a decision and simultaneously be- 
ing provided with an excuse for failure. Only rarely did I hear of a mem- 
ber of the headquarters staff applying for frontline service in order to 


escape the permanent conflicts of conscience to which all at headquarters 
were exposed. To this day the whole thing remains an enigma for me. 
For in spite of a great deal of criticism hardly any one of us ever managed 
to put across our reservations. Actually, we were hardly conscious of 
them. In the stupefying world of the headquarters we remained unmoved 
by what Hitler s decisions must mean at the front, where men were fight- 
ing and dying. Yet time and again our men found themselves in emergen- 
cies that could have been avoided had Hitler not staved off a retreat pro- 
posed by the General Staff. 

No one could expect the Chief of State to go to the front regularly. 
But as Commander in Chief of the army, who moreover decided on so 
many details himself, he was obliged to do so. If he were too ill, then he 
should have appointed someone else; if he were fearful for his life, he had 
no right to be Commander in Chief of the army. 

A few trips to the front could easily have shown him and his staff 
the fundamental errors that were costing so much blood. But Hitler and 
his military advisers thought they could lead the army from their maps. 
They knew nothing of the Russian winter and its road conditions, nor 
of the hardships of soldiers who had to live in holes in the ground, with- 
out quarters, inadequately equipped, exhausted and half frozen. Their 
resistance had long since been shattered. At the situation conferences 
Hitler took these units as up to full strength, and under that delusion 
they were committed. He pushed about on the map divisions that had 
worn themselves out in previous fighting and now lacked arms and am- 
munition. Moreover, Hitler frequently set schedules that were completely 
unrealistic. Since he invariably ordered immediate action, the advance 
detachments came under fire before the task force could bring its full fire 
power to bear. The result was that the men were led piecemeal up to the 
enemy and slowly annihilated. 

The communications apparatus at headquarters was remarkable for 
that period. It was possible to communicate directly with all the impor- 
tant theaters of war. But Hitler overestimated the merits of the telephone, 
radio, and teletype. For thanks to this apparatus the responsible army 
commanders were robbed of every chance for independent action, in con- 
trast to earlier wars. Hitler was constantly intervening on their sectors 
of the front. Because of this communications apparatus individual divi- 
sions in all the theaters of war could be directed from Hitler s table in 
the situation room. The more fearful the situation, the greater was the 
gulf modern technology created between reality and the fantasies with 
which the man at this table operated. 

Military leadership is primarily a matter of intelligence, tenacity, and 
iron nerves. Hitler thought he had all these qualities in far greater meas- 
ure than his generals. Again and again he predicted, although only after 
the disaster of the winter of 1941-42, that even the worst situations could 

305 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

be overcome and, indeed, that only in such situations would he prove 
how firmly he stood and how sound his nerves were.* 

Such remarks were scarcely complimentary toward the officers pres- 
ent; but Hitler was often capable of turning to the General Staff of- 
ficers of his entourage and insulting them directly. He would tell them 
that they were not steadfast, that they were always wanting to retreat, 
that they were prepared to give up ground without any reason. These 
cowards on the General Staff would never have dared to start a war, he 
would say; they had always advised against it, always maintained that 
our forces were far too weak. But who had been proved right, if not him- 
self I He would run down the usual list of earlier military successes and 
review the negative attitudes of the General Staff before these operations 
began— which produced a ghostly impression, given the situation that had 
meanwhile arisen. In going over the past that way he might lose his tem- 
per, flush deeply, and in a rapid, loud voice breaking with excitement 
burst out: "They aren't only notorious cowards, they're dishonest as well. 
They're notorious liars! The training of the General Staff is a school of 
lying and deception. Zeitzler, these figures are false! You yourself are 
being lied to. Believe me, the situation is deliberately being represented 
as unfavorable. That's how they want to force me to authorize retreats!" 

Invariably, Hitler ordered the bends in the front to be held at all 
costs, and just as invariably the Soviet forces would overrun the posi- 
tion after a few days or weeks. Then there followed new rages, mingled 
with fresh denunciations of the officers and, frequently, complaints against 
the German soldiers: "The soldier of the First World War was much 
tougher. Think of all they had to go through, in Verdun, on the Somme. 
Today, they would run away from that land of thing." 

A good many of the officers who came in for these tongue-lashings 
later joined the July 20, 1944, conspiracy against Hitler. That plot cast its 
shadow before. In the past Hitler had had a fine sense of discrimination 
and was able to adapt his language to the people around him. Now he 
was unrestrained and reckless. His speech became an overflowing torrent 
like that of a prisoner who betrays dangerous secrets even to his pros- 
ecutor. In his talk Hitler seemed to me to be obeying an obsession. 

In order to supply evidence for posterity that he had always issued 
the right orders, as early at the late autumn of 1942, Hitler sent for certi- 
fied stenographers from the Reichstag who from then on sat at the table 
during the situation conference and took down every word. 

Sometimes, when Hitler thought he had found the way out of a 

* On July 26, 1944, Hitler boasted to the heads of industry: "All I know is that 
unprecedentedly strong nerves and unprecedented resolution are necessary if a leader 
is to survive in times such as these and make decisions which concern our very 
existence. . . . Any other man in my place would have been unable to do what I 
have done; his nerves would not have been strong enough." 


dilemma, he would add: "Have you got that? Yes, someday people will 
see that I was right. But these idiotic General Staff officers refuse to 
believe me." Even when the troops were retreating, he would declare 
triumphantly: "Didn't I order so and so three days ago? Again my order 
hasn't been carried out. They don't carry out my orders and afterward 
they He and blame the Russians. They He when they say the Russians pre- 
vented them from carrying out the order." Hitler refused to admit that 
his failures were due to the weak position into which he had cast us by 
insisting on a war on many fronts. 

Only a few months before, the stenographers who unexpectedly found 
themselves in this madhouse had probably envisioned Hitler as a superior 
genius, just as Goebbels had taught them. Here they were forced to 
catch a glimpse of the reaHty. I can still see them distinctly as they sat 
writing, sallow-faced, or in their free time pacing back and forth at 
headquarters with a downcast air. They seemed to me Hke envoys from 
the populace who were condemned to witness the tragedy from front-row 

At the beginning of the war in the east, Hitler, captive to his theory 
that the Slavs were subhuman, had caUed the war against them child's 
play. But the longer the war lasted, the more the Russians gained his 
respect. He was impressed by the stoicism with which they had accepted 
their early defeats. He spoke admiringly of Stalin, particularly stressing 
the parallels to his own endurance. The danger that hung over Moscow 
in the winter of 1941 struck him as similar to his present predicament. 
In a brief access of confidence, 5 he might remark with a jesting tone of 
voice that it would be best, after victory over Russia, to entrust the ad- 
ministration of the country to Stalin, under German hegemony, of course, 
since he was the best imaginable man to handle the Russians. In gen- 
eral he regarded Stalin as a kind of colleague. When Stalin's son was 
taken prisoner it was out of this respect, perhaps, that Hitler ordered him 
to be given especiaUy good treatment. Much had changed since that 
day after the armistice with France when Hitler predicted that a war with 
the Soviet Union would be child's play. 

In contrast to his ultimate realization that he was dealing with a 
formidable enemy in the east, Hitler clung to the end to his preconceived 
opinion that the troops of the Western countries were poor fighting 
material. Even the AlHed successes in Africa and Italy could not shake 
his beHef that these soldiers would run away from the first serious on- 
slaught. He was convinced that democracy enfeebled a nation. As late as 
the summer of 1944 he held to his theory that all the ground that had 
been lost in the West would be quickly reconquered. His opinions on the 
Western statesmen had a similar bias. He considered Churchill, as he 
often stated during the situation conferences, an incompetent, alcohoHc 

307 ) Hitler in the Autumn of 1943 

demagogue. And he asserted in all seriousness that Roosevelt was not a 
victim of infantile paralysis but of syphilitic paralysis and was therefore 
mentally unsound. These opinions, too, were indications of his flight 
from reality in the last years of his life. 

Within Restricted Area I in Rastenburg a teahouse had been built. 
Its furnishings were a pleasant change from the general drabness. Here 
we occasionally met for a glass of vermouth; here field marshals waited 
before conferring with Hitler. He himself avoided this teahouse and thus 
escaped encounters with the generals and staff officers of the High Com- 
mand and of the armed forces. But for a few days, after Fascism had 
ingloriously come to an end in Italy on July 25, 1943, and Badoglio had 
taken over the government, Hitler sat there over tea several afternoons 
with perhaps ten of his military and political associates, among them 
Keitel, Jodl, and Bormann. Suddenly, Jodl blurted out: "Come to think of 
it, Fascism simply burst like a soap bubble." A horrified silence followed, 
until someone launched another subject, whereupon Jodl, visibly alarmed, 
flushed beet red. 

A few weeks afterward Prince Philip of Hesse was invited to the 
headquarters. He was one of the few followers whom Hitler always 
treated with deference and respect. Philip had often been useful to 
him, and especially in the early years of the Third Reich had arranged 
contacts with the heads of Italian Fascism. In addition he had helped 
Hitler purchase valuable art works. The Prince had been able to arrange 
their export from Italy through his connections with the Italian royal 
house, to which he was related. 

When the Prince wanted to leave again after a few days, Hitler 
bluntly told him that he would not be allowed to leave headquarters. 
He continued to treat him with the greatest outward courtesy and invited 
him to his meals. But the members of Hitler s entourage, who until then 
had been so fond of talking with a "real prince," avoided him as if he had 
a contagious disease. On September 9, Prince Philip and Princess Mafalda, 
the Italian King's daughter, were taken to a concentration camp on 
Hitler's direct orders. 

For weeks afterward Hitler boasted that he had begun suspecting 
early in the game that Prince Philip was sending information to the 
Italian royal house. He himself had kept an eye on him, Hitler said, and 
ordered his telephone conversations tapped. By methods such as these 
it had been discovered that the Prince was passing number codes to his 
wife. Nevertheless, Hitler had continued to treat the Prince with marked 
friendliness. That had been part of his tactics, he declared, obviously 
delighted with his gifts as a detective. 

The arrest of the Prince and his wife reminded all those who were 
similarly close to Hitler that they had put themselves utterly into his 
hands. The feeling spread, unconsciously, that Hitler might be covertly 


and meanly keeping watch on anyone among his intimates and might 
deliver him up to a similar fate without giving him the slightest oppor- 
tunity to justify himself. 

Mussolini's relationship to Hitler had been for all of us, ever since 
the Duce's support during the Austrian crisis, the very symbol of amity. 
After the Italian Chief of State was overthrown and vanished without a 
trace, Hitler seemed to be inspired with a kind of Nibelungen loyalty. 
Again and again in the situation conferences he insisted that everything 
must be done to locate the missing Duce. He declared that Mussolini's 
fate was a nightmare that weighed on him day and night. 

On September 12, 1943, a conference was held in headquarters to 
which the Gauleiters of Tyrol and Carinthia were invited, along with 
me. It was settled that not only South Tyrol but also the Italian territory 
as far as Verona would be placed under the administration of Gauleiter 
Hof er of Tyrol. Large parts of Venetia, including Trieste, were assigned to 
the territory of Gauleiter Rainer of Carinthia. I was given jurisdiction 
in all questions of armaments and production for the remaining Italian 
territory and powers over and above those of the Italian authorities. Then 
came a great surprise: A few hours after the signing of these decrees 
Mussolini's liberation was announced. 

The two Gauleiters thought their newly acquired domains were lost 
again. So did I. "The Fuehrer wont expect the Duce to swallow that!" 
I said. Shortly afterward I met Hitler again and proposed that he cancel 
the new arrangement. I assumed that this was what he meant to do. To 
my surprise he fended off the suggestion. The decree would continue to 
be valid, he said. I pointed out to him that with a new Italian government 
formed under Mussolini, he could hardly infringe on Italy's sovereignty. 
Hitler reflected briefly, then said: "Present my decree to me for signature 
again, dated tomorrow. Then there will be no doubt that my order is not 
affected by the Duce's liberation." 6 

Undoubtedly Hitler had already been informed, a few days before 
this amputation of northern Italy, that the place where Mussolini was 
being held prisoner had been located. It seems a fair guess that we were 
called to headquarters so quickly precisely because of the impending 
liberation of the Duce. 

The next day Mussolini arrived in Rastenburg. Hitler embraced him, 
sincerely moved. On the anniversary of the Three-Power Pact, Hitler 
sent to the Duce, with whom he declared himself "linked in friendship," 
his "warmest wishes for the future of an Italy once more led to honorable 
freedom by Fascism." 

Two weeks before, Hitler had mutilated Italy. 


The mounting figures for armaments production strengthened my 
position until the autumn of 1943. After we had virtually exhausted the 
industrial reserves of Germany, I tried to exploit the industrial potential 
of the other European countries we controlled. 1 Hitler was at first reluc- 
tant to make full use of the capacity of the West. And in years to come, he 
had decided, the occupied eastern territories were actually to be de- 
industrialized. For industry, he held, promoted communism and bred an 
unwanted class of intellectuals. But conditions quickly proved stronger 
than all such theories. Hitler was hardheaded enough to recognize how 
useful intact industries could be toward solving the problems of troop 

France was the most important of the occupied industrial countries. 
Until the spring of 1943, however, its industrial production scarcely 
helped us. Sauckel's forcible recruiting of labor had done more damage 
there than its results warranted. For in order to escape forced labor, the 
French workers fled their factories, quite a few of which were producing 
for our armaments needs. In May 1943, I remonstrated to Sauckel about 
this. That July at a conference in Paris I proposed that at least the fac- 
tories in France that were working for us be immune from Sauckel's 

* Office Journal, July 23, 1943: "The minister proposed to improve the situation 
by designating protected factories. These would be guaranteed against levying of 
workers and would thus be made more attractive to French labor." 

( 309 ) 


My associates and I intended to have the factories in France partic- 
ularly, but also in Belgium and Holland, produce large quantities of 
goods for the German civilian population, such as clothing, shoes, textiles, 
and furniture, in order to free similar factories in Germany for armaments. 
As soon as I was charged with all of German production at the beginning 
of September, I invited the French Minister of Production to Berlin. 
Minister Bichelonne, a professor at the Sorbonne, was reputed to be a 
capable and energetic man. 

After some bickering with the Foreign Office, I ensured that Biche- 
lonne would be treated as a state visitor. To win that point I had to appeal 
to Hitler, explaining to him that Bichelonne was not going to "come up 
the back stairs" to see me. As a result, the French Production Minister was 
quartered in the Berlin government guest house. 

Five days before Bichelonne arrived I cleared the idea with Hitler 
that we would set up a production planning council on a pan-European 
basis, with France as an equal partner along with the other nations. The 
assumption was, of course, that Germany would retain the decisive voice 
in this planning. 2 

On September 17, 1943, 1 received Bichelonne, and before very long 
a distinctly personal relationship sprang up between us. We were both 
young, we believed the future was on our side, and both of us therefore 
promised ourselves that someday we would avoid the mistakes of the First 
World War generation that was presently governing. I was even prepared 
to prevent what Hitler had in mind in the way of carving up France, all 
the more so since in a Europe integrated economically it did not matter 
where the frontiers ran. Such were the Utopian thoughts in which Biche- 
lonne and I lost ourselves for a while at that time— a token of the world 
of illusions and dreams in which we were moving. 

On the last day of the negotiations Bichelonne asked to have a private 
talk with me. At the instigation of Sauckel, he began, Premier Laval had 
forbidden him to discuss the question of the transportation of workers 
from France to Germany. 8 Would I nevertheless be willing to deal with 
the question? I said I would. Bichelonne explained his concern, and I fi- 
nally asked him whether a measure protecting French industrial plants from 
deportations would help him. If that is possible, then all my problems 
are solved, including those relating to the program we have just agreed 
on," Bichelonne said with relief. "But then the transfer of labor from 
France to Germany will virtually cease. I must tell you that in all honesty." 

I was fully aware of that, but this seemed the only way I could har- 
ness French industrial production to our purposes. Both of us had done 
something unusual. Bichelonne had disobeyed an instruction from Laval, 
and I had disavowed Sauckel. Both of us, basically without the backing 
of our superiors, had come to a far-reaching agreement.* 

* Sauckel pointed this out at the Central Planning meeting, March 1, 1944: "It 
is certainly difficult for me as a German to be confronted with a situation which all 

3ii ) Downhill 

Our production plan would offer benefits to both countries. I would 
gain armaments capacity, while the French appreciated the chance to re- 
sume peacetime production in the midst of war. In collaboration with the 
military commander in France, restricted factories would be established 
throughout the country. Placards posted in these factories would promise 
immunity from SauckeFs levies to all the workers employed in them. I per- 
sonally would stand behind this pledge, since the placards would bear my 
signature in facsimile. But French basic industry also had to be strength- 
ened, transportation guaranteed, food production assured— so that ulti- 
mately almost every important productive unit— in the end a total of ten 
thousand— would be shielded from Sauckel. 

Bichelonne and I spent the weekend at the country house of my 
friend Arno Breker. On Monday, I informed Sauckel's associates of the 
new arrangements. I called upon them to direct their efforts from then 
on to inducing workers to go back to French factories. Their numbers, I 
pledged, would be reckoned in on the quota of "assignments to German 
armaments production. ,,4 

Ten days later I was at the Fuehrer's headquarters to beat Sauckel to 
the punch in reporting to Hitler. And in fact Hitler proved content; he 
approved my arrangements and was even ready to take into account pos- 
sible production losses because of riots or strikes. 5 

In this way SauckeFs operations in France virtually came to an end. 
Instead of the previous monthly quota of fifty thousand, before long only 
five thousand workers a month were being taken to Germany.* A few 
months later (on March 1, 1944), Sauckel reported angrily: "I hear from 
my offices in France that everything is finished there. 'We might as well 
close down/ they tell me. It's the same story in every prefecture: Minister 
Bichelonne has made an agreement with Minister Speer. Laval has the 
nerve to say: 1 won t give you any more men for Germany/ " 

A short while later I proceeded to apply the same principle to Hol- 
land, Belgium, and Italy. 

On August 20, 1943, Heinrich Himmler had been appointed Minister 
of the Interior of the Reich. Until then, to be sure, he had been Reichs- 
fuhrer of the all-embracing SS, which was spoken of as a "state within 
the state." But in his capacity as chief of the police he had been, strangely, 
a subordinate of Minister of the Interior Frick. 

The power of the Gauleiters, constantly furthered by Bormann, had 

too plainly tells the French industries in France they have been placed under protec- 
tion simply to keep them out of the grasp of Sauckel." 

* See Nuremberg Document RF 22. On June 27, 1943, Sauckel wrote to Hitler: 
"Therefore I ask you, mein Ftihrer, to accept my proposal that another half a million 
French men and women be imported into the Reich until the end of the war." 
According to a notation by his assistant, Dr. Strothfang, dated July 28, 1943, Hitler 
had already agreed to this measure. 


led to a splintering of sovereignty in the Reich. There were two categories 
of Gauleiters. The old ones, those who had held their positions before 
1933, were simply incompetent to run an administrative apparatus. Along- 
side these men there rose, in the course of the years, a new class of Gau- 
leiters of Bormann s school. They were young administrative officials, usu- 
ally with legal training, whose one thought was to strengthen the influence 
of the party within the state. 

It was characteristic of Hitler's double-track way of running things 
that the Gauleiters in their capacity of party functionaries were under 
Bormann, while in their capacity as Reich Commissioners for Defense 
they were under the Minister of the Interior. Under the feeble Frick this 
double allegiance involved no danger to Bormann. Analysts of the political 
scene suspected, however, that with Himmler as Minister of the Interior, 
Bormann had acquired a serious counterpoise. 

I too saw it this way and was looking forward hopefully to Himmler s 
reign. Above all I counted on his checking the progressive fragmentation 
of the government executive power. And, in fact, Himmler promptly gave 
me his promise that on administrative matters of the Reich government 
he would call the willful Gauleiters to account. 6 

On October 6, 1943, 1 addressed the Reichsleiters and the Gauleiters 
of the party. The reaction to my speech signaled a turning point. My 
purpose was to open the eyes of the political leadership to the true state 
of affairs, to dispel their illusion that a great rocket would soon be ready 
for use, and to make it clear that the enemy was calling all the turns. For 
us to regain the initiative, the economic structure of Germany, in part still 
on a peacetime basis, must be shaken up, I declared. Of the six million 
persons employed in our consumer goods industries, one and a half million 
must be transferred to armaments production. From now on consumer 
goods would be manufactured in France. I admitted that this would place 
France in a favorable starting position for the postwar era. "But my 
view is," I declared to my audience of top party executives who sat there 
as if petrified, "that if we want to win the war we are the ones who will 
primarily have to make the sacrifices." 

I challenged the Gauleiters even more bluntly when I continued: 

You will please take note of this: The manner in which the various 
districts [Gaue] have hitherto obstructed the shutdown of consumer goods 
production can and will no longer be tolerated. Henceforth, if the districts 
do not respond to my requests within two weeks I shall myself order the shut- 
downs. And I can assure you that I am prepared to apply the authority of 
the Reich government at any cost! I have spoken with Reichsfuhrer-SS 
Himmler, and from now on I shall deal firmly with the districts that do not 
carry out these measures. 

313 ) Downhill 

The Gauleiters were less disturbed by the comprehensiveness of my 
program than by these two last sentences. I had barely finished my speech 
when several of them came rushing up to me. Led by one of the oldest 
among them, Joseph Biirkel, in loud voices and with waving arms they 
charged that I had threatened them with concentration camp. In order to 
correct that misapprehension, I asked Bormann if I could once more 
take the floor. But Bormann waved me aside. With hypocritical friendli- 
ness he said this was not necessary at all, for there were really no misun- 

The evening after this meeting many of the Gauleiters drank so 
heavily that they needed help to get to the special train taking them to the 
Fuehrer s headquarters that night. Next morning I asked Hitler to say a 
few words about temperance to his political associates; but as always he 
spared the feelings of his comrades in arms of the early days. On the other 
hand, Bormann informed Hitler about my quarrel with the Gauleiters.* 
Hitler gave me to understand that all the Gauleiters were furious, without 
telling me any of the specific reasons. Bormann, it soon became plain, had 
at last found a way to undermine my standing with Hitler. He went on 
chipping away incessantly, and for the first time with some success. I 
myself had given him the means. From now on I could no longer count on 
Hitler's support as a matter of course. 

I also soon found out what Himmler's promise to enforce my di- 
rectives was worth. I had documents on serious disputes with Gauleiters 
sent to him, but I did not hear anything about them for weeks. Finally, 
Himmler' s state secretary, Wilhelm Stuckart, informed me with some em- 
barrassment that the Minister of the Interior had sent the documents 
directly to Bormann, whose reply had only now arrived. All the cases had 
been checked over by the Gauleiters, Stuckart said. As might have been 
expected, it had turned out that my orders were invalid and the Gauleiters 
were entirely justified in refusing to follow them. Himmler, Stuckart said, 
had accepted this report. So much for my hope of strengthening the gov- 
ernment's as against the party's authority. Nothing came of the Speer- 
Himmler coalition either. 

A few months passed before I found out why all these plans were 
doomed to failure. As I heard from Gauleiter Hanke of Lower Silesia, 
Himmler had actually tried to strike a blow against the sovereignty of 
some Gauleiters. He sent them orders through his SS commanders in their 
districts, a clear affront to their power. But he quickly learned that the 
Gauleiters had all the backing they needed in Bormann's party head- 
quarters. Within a few days Bormann had Hitler prohibit any such steps 
by Himmler. Hitler might have contempt for his Gauleiters, but at crucial 
moments he always remained loyal to these comrades of his early days of 

* I did not learn the particulars from Gauleiter Kaufmann until May 1944. Then, 
I immediately requested a meeting with Hitler. For further details, see Chapter 33. 


struggle. Even Himmler and the SS could do nothing against this senti- 
mental cronyism. 

Worsted in this one inept maneuver, the SS leader completely ac- 
knowledged the independence of the Gauleiters. The projected meeting of 
"Reich Defense Commissioners" was never called, and Himmler contented 
himself with making his power felt among the politically less influential 
mayors and governors. Bormann and Himmler, who were on a first-name 
basis anyhow, soon became good friends again. My speech had brought 
to light the strata of interest-groups, but in revealing these power-relation- 
ships I had endangered myself. 

Within a few months I could chalk up a third failure in my efforts to 
activate the power and potentialities of the regime. Faced with a dilemma, 
I tried to escape it by taking the offensive. Only five days after my speech 
I had Hitler appoint me chief of future planning for all the cities damaged 
by bombing. Thus I was invested with full powers in a field which was 
much closer to the hearts of my opponents, including Bormann himself, 
than many of the problems concerned with the war. Some of them were 
already thinking of this reconstruction of the cities as their foremost future 
task. Hitler s decree reminded them that I would be standing over them in 

I wanted this assignment not only as a counter in the power struggle. 
There was another threat, one springing from the quality of the Gauleiters, 
which I felt had to be headed off. For they saw the devastation of the 
cities as an opportunity to tear down historic buildings which to them had 
little meaning. Instances of this tendency of theirs were all too common. 
One day, for example, I was sitting on a roof terrace with the Gauleiter 
of Essen looking out over the ruins after a heavy air raid. He commented 
casually that now the Cathedral of Essen could be torn down entirely, 
since the bombing had damaged it anyhow and it was only a hindrance 
to modernization of the city. The Mayor of Mannheim appealed to me for 
help to prevent the demolition of the burned-out Mannheim Castle and 
the National Theater. From Stuttgart, I heard that the burned palace 
there was also to be torn down at the orders of the local Gauleiter.* 

* Hitler found out about such plans too late. Besides, the Gauleiters were able 
to make it appear that the buildings had been on the point of collapse. Eight months 
later, on June 26, 1944, I protested to Bormann: "In various cities efforts are under 
way to tear down buildings of historical and artistic merit that have been damaged 
in the raids. The argument offered to justify these measures is that the buildings are 
either about to collapse or cannot be restored. It is also contended that demolition 
will provide a welcome opportunity for urban renewal. I would be very grateful if 
you would send a memorandum to all the Gauleiters pointing out that historical 
monuments, even in ruins, must be preserved at all costs. I must ask you also to 
inform the Gauleiters that such monuments cannot be torn down until the Fuehrer 
himself has definitely decided on reconstruction plans for the cities and thus also for 

315 ) Downhill 

The reasoning in all these cases was the same: Away with castles and 
churches; after the war we'll build our own monuments! In part this im- 
pulse sprang from the feeling of inferiority toward the past that the party 
bigwigs had. But there was another element in this feeling, as one of the 
Gauleiters explained when he was justifying his demolition order to me: 
Castles and churches of the past were citadels of reaction that stood in 
the way of our revolution. Remarks of this sort revealed a fanaticism that 
belonged to the early days of the party, but that had gradually been lost in 
the compromises and arrangements of a party in power. 

I myself placed such importance on the preservation of the historical 
fabric of the German cities and on a sane policy of reconstruction that 
even at the climax and turning point of the war, in November and Decem- 
ber 1943, I addressed a letter to all Gauleiters in which I recast most of 
my prewar philosophy: no more pretentious artistic notions, but economy- 
mindedness; broad-scale transportation planning to save the cities from 
traffic congestion; mass production of housing, cleaning up the old quar- 
ters of the cities, and establishing businesses in the city centers. 7 There 
was no longer any talk of monumental buildings. My enthusiasm for them 
had faded, and so in all probability had Hitler's, for he let me describe this 
new planning concept to him without the least protest. 

Early in November 1943, Soviet troops were approaching Nikopol, the 
center of matiganese mining. At this time there occurred a curious inci- 
dent in which Hitler behaved much as Goering had when he ordered his 
generals to tell a deliberate He. 

Chief of Staff Zeitzler phoned to tell me that he had just had a violent 
disagreement with Hitler. He himself was highly agitated. Hitler had in- 
sisted, he said, that all available divisions be massed for the defense of 
Nikopol. Without manganese, Hitler had declared excitedly, the war would 
be lost in no time. Three months later Speer would have to halt arma- 
ments production, for he has no reserve stocks of manganese. 8 Zeitzler 
begged me to help him. Instead of bringing in new troops, he said, the 
time had come to begin the retreat. This was our only chance to avert 
another Stalingrad. 

After hearing this, I at once sat down with Rochling and Rohland, 
our steel industry experts, to clarify our situation in regard to manganese. 
Manganese was, of course, one of the principal constituents of high- 
strength steels. But it was equally clear after Zeitzlers telephone call that 
one way or another the manganese mines in southern Russia were lost 
to us. What I learned at my conferences was surprisingly favorable. On 

these buildings." Despite the limited means, materials, and workmen available, I also 
ordered that many damaged monuments be patched up sufficiently to prevent further 
dilapidation. I tried to put this plan into effect in northern Italy and in France by 
giving similar instructions to the Todt Organization. 


November 11, I informed Zeitzler and Hitler by teletype: "Manganese 
stocks sufficient for eleven to twelve months available in the Reich even 
if present procedures are maintained. The Reich Steel Association guar- 
antees that in case Nikopol is lost introduction of other metals will enable 
us to stretch the manganese stocks without additional strain on other alloy 
materials for eighteen months." 9 I could moreover state that even the loss 
of neighboring Krivoi Rog— for the holding of which Hitler wanted to 
wage a great defensive battle—would not seriously affect the continued 
flow of German steel production. 

When I arrived at the Fuehrer's headquarters two days later, Hitler 
snarled at me in a tone he had never used toward me before: "What was 
the idea of your giving the Chief of Staff your memorandum on the man- 
ganese situation?" 

I had expected to find him well pleased with me, and managed only 
to reply, stunned: "But, mein Fuhrer, it's good news after all!" 

Hitler did not accept that. "You are not to give the Chief of Staff any 
memoranda at all! If you have some information, kindly send it to me. 
You've put me in an intolerable situation. I have just given orders for all 
available forces to be concentrated for the defense of Nikopol. At last I 
have a reason to force the army group to fight! And then Zeitzler comes 
along with your memo. It makes me out a liar! If Nikopol is lost now, it's 
your fault. I forbid you once and for all"— his voice rose to a scream at the 
end— "to address any memos to anybody but myself. Do you understand 
that? I forbid it!" 

Nevertheless, my memorandum had done its work; for soon after- 
ward Hitler stopped insisting on a battle for the manganese mines. But 
since the Soviet pressure in this area ceased at the same time, Nikopol was 
not lost until February 18, 1944. 

In a second memorandum I gave to Hitler that day, I had drawn up 
an inventory of our stocks of all alloy metals. By the single sentence, "im- 
ports from the Balkans, Turkey, Nikopol, Finland, and northern Norway 
have not been considered," I alluded to the possibility that these areas 
might well be lost to us. The following table sums up the results:* 

Manganese Nickel Chromium Wolframite Molybdenum Silicon 

Home stocks 140,000 1 6,000 1 21,000 1 1,330 1 425 1 17,900 1 

Imports 8,100 1 190 1 15.5 1 4,200 1 

Consumption 15,500 1 750 1 3*75! t 160 1 69.5 1 7,000 1 

Months reserve 19 10 5.6 10.6 7.8 6.4 

From this table I drew the following conclusion: 

Hence, the element in shortest supply is chromium. This is especially 
grave since chromium is indispensable to a highly developed armaments 

* Figures given in metric tons. 

317 ) Downhill 

industry. Should supplies from Turkey be cut off, the stockpile of chromium 
is sufficient only for 5.6 months. The manufacture of planes, tanks, motor 
vehicles, tank shells, U-boats, and almost the entire gamut of artillery would 
have to cease from one to three months after this deadline, since by then the 
reserves in the distribution channels would be used up. 10 

That meant no more or less than that the war would be over approxi- 
mately ten months after the loss of the Balkans. Hitler listened to my re- 
port, whose import was that it would not be Nikopol but the Balkans that 
would determine the outcome of the war, in total silence. Then he turned 
away, out of sorts. He addressed my associate Saur, to discuss new tank 
programs with him. 

Until the summer of 1943, Hitler used to telephone me at the begin- 
ning of every month to ask for the latest production figures, which he then 
entered on a prepared sheet. I gave him tie figures in the customary order, 
and Hitler usually received them with exclamations such as: "Very good! 
Why, that's wonderful! Really a hundred and ten Tigers? That's more than 
you promised. . . . And how many Tigers do you think you'll manage next 
month? Every tank is important now. . . . " He generally concluded these 
conversations with a brief reference to the situation: "We've taken Khar- 
kov today. It's going well. Well then, nice to talk to you. My regards 
to your wife. Is she still at Obersalzberg? Well then, my regards again." 

When I thanked him and added the salutation, "Heil, mein Fuhrer!" 
he sometimes replied, "Heil, Speer." This greeting was a sign of favor 
which he only rarely vouchsafed to Goering, Goebbels, and a few other 
intimates; underlying it was a note of faint irony at the mandatory, "Heil, 
mein Fuhrer." At such moments I felt as if a medal had been conferred on 
me. I did not notice the element of condescension in this familiarity. Al- 
though the fascination of the early days and the excitement of being on 
an intimate footing with Hitler had long since passed, although I no longer 
enjoyed the unique special position of Hitler's architect, and although I 
had become one of many in the apparatus of government, a word from 
Hitler had lost none of its magical force. To be precise, all the intrigues 
and struggles for power were directed toward eliciting such a word, or 
what it stood for. The position of each and every one of us was dependent 
on his attitude. 

The telephone calls gradually ceased. It is difficult to say just when, 
but from the autumn of 1943 on > at an y rate > Hitler fell into the habit of 
calling Saur to ask for the monthly reports. 11 I did not oppose this, since 
I recognized Hitler's right to take away what he had given. But since Bor- 
mann had particularly good relations with Saur as well as Dorsch— both 
men were old party members— I gradually began to feel insecure in my 
own Ministry. 

At first I tried to consolidate my position "by assigning a representa- 
tive from industry as a deputy to each of my ten department heads. 12 But 


Dorsch and Saur succeeded in frustrating my intention in their own de- 
partments. Since it became ever more apparent that a faction was forming 
in the Ministry under the leadership of Dorsch, on December 21, 1943, I 
initiated a kind of "coup d etat," appointing two old, reliable associates 
from my days as Hitler s chief architect as chiefs of the Personnel and 
Organization Section, 13 and placed the previously independent Todt Or- 
ganization under their direction. 

The next day I escaped from the heavy burdens of the year 1943, 
with its multitudinous personal disappointments and intrigues, by seek- 
ing out the remotest and loneliest corner of the world within our sphere 
of power: northern Lapland. In 1941 and 1942, Hitler had refused to let 
me travel to Norway, Finland, and Russia because he considered such 
a journey too dangerous and me too indispensable. But this time he gave 
his approval with no more ado. 

We started at dawn in my new plane, a four-motored Focke-Wulf 
Condor. It had unusually long range because of its built-in reserve 
tanks. 14 Siegfried Borries, the violinist, and an amateur magician who 
became famous after the war under the name of Kalanag, accompanied 
us. My idea was that instead of making speeches, we would provide some 
Christmas entertainment for the soldiers and Todt Organization workers 
in the north. Flying low, we looked down at Finland's chains of lakes, 
which my wife and I had longed to explore with faltboat and tent. Early 
in the afternoon, in the last glimmers of dusk in this northern region, we 
landed near Rovaniemi on a primitive snow-covered runway marked out 
by kerosene lamps. 

The very next day we drove two hundred and seventy-five miles north 
in an open car until we reached the small Arctic port of Petsamo. The 
landscape had a certain high-alpine monotony, but the changes of light 
through all the intervening shades from yellow to red, produced by the 
sun moving below the horizon, had a fantastic beauty. 

In Petsamo we held several Christmas parties for workers, soldiers 
and officers, and even more on the following evenings in the other bar- 
racks. The following night we slept in the personal blockhouse of the 
commanding general of the Arctic front. From here we visited advanced 
bases on Fisher Peninsula, our northernmost and the most inhospitable 
sector of the front, only fifty miles from Murmansk. It was an area of 
depressing solitude. A sallow, greenish light slanted down through a veil 
of fog and snow upon a treeless, deathly rigid landscape. Accompanied 
by General Hengl, we slowly worked our way on skis to the advance 
strongpoints. At one of these positions a unit demonstrated to me the 
effect of one of our 15 centimeter infantry howitzers on a Soviet dugout. 
It was the first "test-firing" with live ammunition I had really witnessed. 
For when one of the heavy batteries at Cape Griz-Nez was demonstrated 
to me, the commander said his target was Dover but then explained that 

319 ) Downhill 

in reality he had ordered his men to fire into the water. Here, on the 
other hand, the gunners scored a direct hit and the wooden beams of the 
Russian dugout flew into the air. Immediately afterward a lance cor- 
poral right beside me collapsed without a sound. A Soviet sharpshooter 
had hit him in the head through the observation slit. Oddly enough, this 
was the first time I had been confronted with the reality of the war. I 
had been acquainted with our infantry howitzers only as technical items 
to be demonstrated on a shooting range; now I suddenly saw how this 
instrument, which I had regarded purely theoretically, was used to 
destroy human beings. 

Dining this inspection tour both our soldiers and officers complained 
about our lack of light infantry weapons. They particularly missed an 
effective submachine gun. The soldiers made do with captured Soviet 
weapons of this type. 

Hitler was directly responsible for this situation. The former First 
World War infantryman still clung to his familiar carbine. In the sum- 
mer of 1942 he decided against a submachine gun that had already been 
developed and ruled that the rifle better served the ends of the infantry. 
One lingering effect of his own experience in the trenches was, as I now 
saw in practice, that he promoted the heavy weapons and tanks he had 
then admired, to the neglect of infantry weapons. 

Immediately after my return I tried to correct this unbalance. At 
the beginning of January our infantry program was supported with 
specific requests from the army General Staff and the Commander in 
Chief of the reserve army. But Hitler, as his own expert on matters of 
armaments, waited six months before approving our proposals, only 
afterward to hector us for any failure to meet our quotas on the dead- 
lines. Within three-quarters of a year we achieved significant increases 
in this important area. In the case of the submachine gun we actually 
expanded production twenty-fold— though, to be sure, hardly any of these 
guns had been produced previously. 15 We could have achieved these 
increases two years earlier without being compelled to use any f acilities 
involved in the production of heavy weapons. 

The next day, I had a look at the nickel plant of Kolosjokki, our 
sole source of nickel and the real destination of this Christmas trip of 
mine. Its yards were filled with ore that had not been shipped out be- 
cause our transport facilities were being employed on building a bomb- 
proof power plant. I assigned the power plant a lower priority rating and 
the supply of nickel began to move to our factories at a faster pace. 

In a clearing in the heart of the primeval forest, some distance from 
Lake Inari, Lapp and German woodcutters had gathered around an art- 
fully built wood fire, source of both warmth and illumination, while Sieg- 
fried Borries began the evening with the famous chaconne from Bach's 


D-minor Partita. Afterward we took a nocturnal ski tour lasting for 
several hours to one of the Lapp encampments. Our expected idyllic 
night in a tent at twenty-two degrees below zero Fahrenheit came to 
naught, however; for the wind turned and filled our shelter halves with 
smoke. I fled outside and at three o'clock in the morning bedded down 
in my reindeer skin sleeping bag. The next morning I felt a darting pain 
in my knee. 

A few days later I was back at Hitler's headquarters. At Bormann's 
instigation he had called a major conference at which, in the presence 
of the chief ministers, the labor program for 1944 was to be drafted and 
Sauckel was to lodge his complaints against me. On the day before I 
proposed to Hitler that we hold a prior meeting under the chairmanship 
of Lammers to discuss those differences which were better thrashed out 
beforehand. At this, Hitler became distinctly aggressive. He said in an icy 
voice that he would not put up with such attempts to influence the par- 
ticipants in the conference. He did not want to hear any preconceived 
opinions; he wanted to make the decisions himself. 

After this reprimand I went to Himmler, accompanied by my tech- 
nical advisers. Field Marshal Keitel was also present at my request. 16 I 
wanted to agree on joint tactics with these men at least, in order to 
prevent Sauckel from resuming his deportations from the occupied 
western areas. For Keitel, as superior to all the military commanders, and 
Himmler, who was responsible for the policing of the occupied territories, 
feared that such a step would bring about a rise in partisan activities. 
Both Himmler and Keitel, we agreed, were to declare at the conference 
that they did not have the necessary personnel for any new roundup of 
labor by Sauckel and that therefore public order would be imperiled. 
By this shift I hoped to achieve my aim of finally stopping the deporta- 
tions. I would then push through intensified employment of the German 
reserves, especially German women. 

But apparently Bormann had prepared Hitler on the problems in- 
volved just as I had Himmler and Keitel. Even as Hitler greeted us he 
showed, by his coldness and rudeness toward all the participants, that 
he was out of sorts. Seeing such omens, anyone who knew Hitler would 
be very careful about raising difficult questions. I, too, on such a day, 
would have left all my most important concerns in my briefcase and 
would have presented him only with minor problems. But the subject 
of the conference could no longer be dodged. Irritably, Hitler cut me off: 
"Herr Speer, I will not have you trying once again to force your ideas 
on a conference. I am chairing this meeting and I shall decide at the end 
what is to be done. Not you! Kindly remember that!" 

No one ever opposed Hitler in these angry, ill-natured moods. My 
allies Keitel and Himmler no longer dreamed of saying their pieces, as 
agreed on. On the contrary, they stoutly assured Hitler that they would 

321 ) Downhill 

do all in their power to support Sauckel's program. Hitler began to ask 
the various ministers present about their need for workers in 1944. He 
carefully wrote down all these figures, added up the sum himself, and 
turned to Sauckel, 17 "Can you, Party Comrade Sauckel, obtain four mil- 
lion workers this year? Yes or no." 

Sauckel puffed out his chest. "Of course, mein Fiihrer. I give you 
my word on that. But to fill the quota I'll have to have a free hand again 
in the occupied territories." 

I made a few objections to the effect that I thought the majority 
of these millions could be mobilized in Germany itself. Hitler cut me 
off sharply: "Are you responsible to me for the labor force or is Party 
Comrade Sauckel?" 

In a tone that excluded all contradiction, Hitler now ordered Keitel 
and Himmler to instruct their organizations to push the program of ob- 
taining workers. Keitel, as always, merely said: "Jawohl, mein Fiihrer!" 
And Himmler remained mute. The battle seemed already lost. In order 
to save something out of it, I asked Sauckel whether in spite of his re- 
cruitments he could also guarantee the labor supply for the restricted 
factories. Boastfully, he replied that this would not cause any problems. 
I then attempted to settle the priorities and to extract some kind of 
pledge from Sauckel to transport workers to Germany only after the 
supply for the restricted factories had been guaranteed. Sauckel also 
consented to this with a wave of his hand. But Hitler promptly inter- 
vened: "What more do you want, Herr Speer? Isn't it enough if Party 
Comrade Sauckel assures you that? Your mind should be at ease about 
French industry." 

Further discussion would only have strengthened Sauckel's position. 
The conference was over; Hitler became more cordial again and ex- 
changed a few friendly words, even with me. But that was the end of it. 
Nevertheless, Sauckel's deportations never got started. That had little 
to do with my efforts to block him through my French offices and with 
the collusion of the army authorities. 18 Loss of authority in the occupied 
areas, the spreading rule of the maquis, and the growing reluctance of 
the German occupation administrators to increase their difficulties, pre- 
vented the execution of all these plans. 

The outcome of the conference at the Fuehrer's headquarters had 
consequences only for me personally. From Hitler's treatment of me, it 
was clear to everyone that I was in disfavor. The victor in the struggle 
between Sauckel and me had been Bormann. From now on we had to 
deal with, at first covert, but soon with more and more overt, attacks 
upon my aides from industry. More and more frequently I had to defend 
them at the party secretariat against suspicions or even intervene with 
the secret police to protect them. 19 


Even the last scintillating assembly of the prominent leaders of the 
Reich could scarcely distract me from my cares. That was the gala cele- 
bration of Goering's birthday on January 12, 1944, which he held at 
Karinhall. We all came with expensive presents, such as Goering ex- 
pected: cigars from Holland, gold bars from the Balkans, valuable paint- 
ings and sculptures. Goering had let me know that he would like to have 
a marble bust of Hitler, more than life size, by Breker. The overladen 
gift table had been set up in the big library. Goering displayed it to his 
guests and spread out on it the building plans his architect had prepared 
for his birthday. Goering's palace-like residence was to be more than 
doubled in size. 

At the magnificently set table in the luxurious dining room flunkies 
in white livery served a somewhat austere meal, in keeping with the 
conditions of the time. Funk, as he did every year, delivered the birth- 
day speech at the banquet. He lauded Goering's abilities, qualities, and 
dignities and offered the toast to him as "one of the greatest Germans." 
Funk's extravagant words contrasted grotesquely with the actual situa- 
tion. The whole thing was a ghostly celebration taking place against a 
background of collapse and ruin. 

After the meal the guests scattered through the spacious rooms of 
Karinhall. Milch and I had some words about where the money for this 
ostentation was probably coming from. Milch said that recently Goering's 
old friend Loerzer, the famous fighter pilot of the First World War, had 
sent him a carload of stuff from the Italian black market: women's stock- 
ings, soap, and other rare items. Loerzer had informed Milch that he 
could have these things sold on the black market. There had even been 
a price list with the shipment, probably with the intention of keeping 
black market prices uniform throughout Germany, and the considerable 
profit that would fall to Milch had already been computed. Instead, 
Milch had the goods from the car distributed among the employees of 
his Ministry. Soon afterward I heard that many other carloads had been 
sold for Goering's benefit. And a while after that the superintendent of 
the Reich Air Ministry, Plagemann, who had to carry out these deals 
for Goering, was removed from Milch's control and made a direct sub- 
ordinate of Goering. 

I had had my personal experiences with Goering's birthdays. Ever 
since I had been entitled to six thousand marks annually as a member 
of the Prussian Council of State, I had also been receiving every year, 
just before Goering's birthday, a letter informing me that a considerable 
portion of my fee would be withheld for the Council of State's birthday 
gift to Goering. I was not even asked for this contribution. When I men- 
tioned this to Milch he told me that a similar procedure was followed 
with the Air Ministry's general fund. On every birthday a large sum 

323 ) Downhill 

from this fund was diverted to Goering's account, whereupon the Reich 
Marshal himself decided what painting was to be bought with this sum. 

Yet we knew that such sources could cover only a small part of 
Goering's enormous expenditures. We did not know what men in indus- 
try provided the subsidies; but Milch and I now and again had occasion 
to find out that such sources existed— when Goering telephoned us be- 
cause some man in our organizations had treated one of his patrons a 
bit roughly. 

My recent experiences and encounters in Lapland had provided the 
greatest imaginable contrast to the hothouse atmosphere of this corrupt 
bogus world. Evidently, too, I was more depressed by the uncertainty 
of my relationship with Hitler than I cared to admit to myself. The 
nearly two years of continuous tension had been taking their toll. Physi- 
cally, I was nearly worn out at the age of thirty-eight. The pain in my 
knee hardly ever left me. I had no reserves of strength. Or were all these 
symptoms merely an escape? 

On January 18, 1944, 1 was taken to a hospital. 



2 3 


Dr. gebhardt, ss group leader and well known as a knee specialist 
in the European world of sports,* ran the Red Cross's Hohenlychen Hos- 
pital. It was situated on a lakeside in wooded country about sixty miles 
north of Berlin. Without knowing it, I had put myself into the hands of 
a doctor who was one of Heinrich Himmler's very few intimate friends. 
For more than two months I lived in a simply furnished sickroom in the 
private section of the hospital. My secretaries were quartered in other 
rooms in the building, and a direct telephone line to my Ministry was set 
up, for I wanted to keep on working. 

Sickness on the part of a minister of the Third Reich involved some 
special difficulties. Only too often Hitler had explained the elimination 
of a prominent figure in the government or the party on grounds of ill 
health. People in political circles therefore pricked up their ears if any 
of Hitlers close associates was reported "sick." Since, however, I was 
really sick, it seemed advisable to remain as active as possible. More- 
over, I could not let go on my apparatus, for like Hitler I had no suitable 
deputy at my disposal. Though friends and associates did their best to 

* Gebhardt had also been consulted about a knee injury by Leopold III of Bel- 
gium and by the Belgian industrialist Danny Heinemann. During the Nuremberg 
Trial, I learned that Gebhardt had performed experiments on prisoners in concentra- 
tion camps. 

( 3*7 ) 


give me the opportunity to rest, the conferences, telephone calls, and 
dictation conducted from my bed often did not stop before midnight. 

My absence unleashed certain elements, as the following incident 
will illustrate. Almost as soon as I arrived at the hospital, my newly 
appointed personnel chief, Erwin Bohr, telephoned me, quite excited. 
There was a locked filing case in his office, he said. Dorsch had ordered 
this case transported at once to the Todt Organization headquarters. I 
instantly countermanded this, saying that it was to stay where it was. A 
few days later representatives of the Berlin Gauleiter s headquarters 
appeared, accompanied by several moving men. They had orders, Bohr 
informed me, to take the filing case with them, for it was party property 
along with its contents. Bohr no longer knew what to do. I managed to 
postpone this action by telephoning one of Goebbels's closest associates, 
Naumann. The filing case was sealed by the party officials— but the seal 
was placed only on its door. I then had it opened by unscrewing the 
back. The next day Bohr came to the hospital with a bundle of photo- 
copied documents. They contained dossiers on a number of my time- 
honored assistants— adverse reports almost without exception. Most of 
the men were charged with attitudes hostile to the party; in some cases 
it was recommended that they be watched by the Gestapo. I also dis- 
covered that the party had a liaison man in my Ministry: Xaver Dorsch. 
The fact surprised me less than the person. 

Since the autumn I had been trying to have one of the officials in 
my Ministry promoted. But the clique which had recently taken shape 
in the Ministry did not like him. My then personnel chief had resorted 
to all sorts of evasions, until I finally forced him to nominate my man 
for promotion. Shortly before my illness I had received a sharp, un- 
friendly rejection from Bormann. Now we found a draft of that sharp 
note among the documents in this secret file, composed, as it turned 
out, by Dorsch and Personnel Chief Haasemann (whom I had replaced 
by Bohr). Bormann s text followed it word for word.* 

From my sickbed I telephoned Goebbels. As Gauleiter of Berlin he 
was head of all the party representatives in the Berlin ministries. Goeb- 

* According to the "Report to the Fuehrer," No. 5, January 29, 1944, Dorsch 
was the "Special Department Supervisor of the League of German Officials." From 
the letter to the party secretariat: "Birkenholz . . . displayed uncomradely behavior, 
arrogance, etc., conduct that cannot be condoned in a high official who ought to 
stand solidly behind the National Socialist State. In character also he seems unsuitable 
for promotion to the rank of Ministerialrat. . . . For these reasons I cannot support 
the promotion. Moreover, certain internal events in this office militate against it." 
The party secretariat had the right to decide on the promotion of all ministerial 
officials. I wrote to Hitler on January 29, 1944: "The devastating report which without 
my knowledge was sent as a political evaluation to the party secretari